Kelly Coulter

Ethical Consumption, Cannabis, Feminism, and Environmentalism

Category: Feminism

The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men and how it relates to women who are currently working in the cannabis space or are seeking to in the future. There is considerable potential for women in this industry and their stories are critically important at this time.

Bringing motherhood to the cannabis workspace

Kelly Coulter talks to Sandra Colasanti about balancing motherhood with an exciting career in the cannabis industry

“When we as a society begin to value mothers as the givers and supporters of life, then we will see social change in ways that matter.” – Ina May Gaskin

There is a woman who has worked harder, longer and with more tenacity than most, and if you were to meet her it is entirely unlikely she would speak of her own accomplishments. She would talk about her family, her business and how much she cares about the future of the industry, and especially, her hopes for more access to quality cannabis. Her name is Sandra Colasanti and she is possibly one of the most giving people in the Canadian cannabis scene.

Her journey began in 2001 when her husband, Remo, started growing his own cannabis to help manage excruciating pain he suffered after a career-ending back injury. Although Sandra is not a consumer of cannabis, she recognized its healing value, as well as the importance for individuals to be able to cultivate their own—and she made it a priority to help facilitate this need.

As a professional woman who had worked in sales her entire life, the jump into the medical cannabis industry seemed like a natural evolution. In the early days of the MMAR, the need for qualified, reliable and accurate information became paramount.

Sandra focused her enquiry entirely on plant nutrients, as she saw the relationship between the efficacy of the growing methods and the quality of the cannabis produced as critical to medical needs. Her breadth of knowledge in cultivation, nutrients and plant behaviour is sought after by even the most experienced professional growers.

Her family comes first though, and as much as Sandra is all business, it is her role as mother, grandmother and wife that will make her smile, laugh and share her favourite stories. Women who are currently entering into the industry or have been working hard to make their way in recent years know that the reality of balancing work and the love of family is possibly an even greater challenge than working in an industry that is historically dominated by men.

Sandra has been a vocal patient advocate for over 16 years, and knows the next 16 years are going to change our world for the better. “Growing cannabis is incredibly challenging, and most people prefer not to grow their own. They need to have an option as well.”  She says she believes that licensed producers definitely have the ability to grow medical cannabis that is as high quality and effective as what can be grown at home.

“That’s why we started our nutrient company,” she says, referring to Remo Nutrients, which she co-founded in 2014. “We’ve been experimenting with different cannabis fertilizers in Remo’s garden for years, and we developed a solution that is completely safe for growing, while also helping to produce safe high quality end-results that patients can expect.”

It is not just this “giving” that the mothers of the cannabis industry bring to the table: most easily recognizable in women like Sandra is the level of caring that goes into their products and their business relationships. Sandra has been around for a long time, but her recognition is muted by her nature to give any recognition she gets away to others. She is a person who cares deeply about the integrity of her words. In the future, her values will be a cherished commodity as the cannabis industry moves into the unchartered waters of legalized and regulated cannabis in Canada and beyond.

Happy Mother’s Day!!!

International Women’s Day is an opportunity for the Canadian cannabis industry to reflect

In honour of International Women’s Day, the cannabis industry must take a good long look at how it will not only include and support women, but also raise…

In honour of International Women’s Day, the cannabis industry must take a good long look at how it will not only include and support women, but also raise them up. This will require forward thinking folks, and some fierceness on all of our parts.

There are initiatives from within the sector, but also significantly outside of the industry, that women would be well-advised to tap into.  The recent announcement by the Canadian and American federal governments of the creation of a Canada−United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders—a joint initiative meant to help businesses owned by women as a way to contribute to economic growth, competitiveness and the integration of the two economies—is a signal of what is to come for all women.

Some of us may feel like we have been here before.  In her recent editorial for Maclean’s, Arlene Dickinson pulls no punches:

“We already know the challenges that women face when starting a business. We know that financial markets are tilted against women, and that, as a rule, women have more difficulty accessing capital from investors and banks alike.

“But we also know that women-owned businesses, on average, perform very well compared to those owned solely by men. And we know that if a company’s board includes a strong contingent of women, it will more likely do better. So, smart companies are now taking steps to seek out and support women entrepreneurs and leaders—not out of pity, but out of self-interest.”

The women of cannabis should embrace such initiatives with optimism, but also be willing to participate with a sense of pride in their duty to pioneer for the generations of women who will come behind them.

The tech sector has in recent years come to face its own shortcomings in diversity.  Uber, the golden child of the sharing economy, is being hit hard by its own much-publicized misogynistic leadership. This is not only bad for the women affected but it is really REALLY bad for business.  There are parallels here for our own sector that we can learn from as men and women who truly want the best for the industry.

Women are at the heart of the cannabis industry as much as men. When Melissa Etheridge spoke at the inaugural Women Grow Leadership Summit, her words garnered the heaps of affirmation that every woman has known for as long as women have been healing with plants. “We are at a paradigm of all of this wellness and it is now time for us to become balanced.” Ms. Etheridge was referring to our relationship with our healing attributes and our relationship with the patriarchy of money and business.  We owe this shift in thought and practise not only to ourselves, but also  to our daughters and grand-daughters and the young women who will come behind us.

Happy International Women’s Day to ALL the women of cannabis, the future is ours, if we take it!

Featured image via Donnie Ray Jones.

How Prohibition Hurts Women

Originally published on Canlio

A 16-year old girl was raped by 30 men in Brazil. It happened at a street party in an area (favela) which is run by drug gang(s). Does prohibition harm women? You bet it does. Does cannabis prohibition harm women disproportionately? Yes it does, but not for the reasons we would typically consider. I read a very good article some time ago about how women in a region in the US well known for cannabis cultivation were less likely to call 911 if they were in an abusive situation.

“She and her partner had moved into a small cabin without power in the hills above Garberville. “The woman wanted to be living a happy, healthy, organic lifestyle…” but the partner began drinking, abusing her, and leaving her at home alone with the kids for extended periods. One day, he went to town in their only vehicle and stayed on a binge for several days, leaving her trapped without enough food to feed the kids or enough clean clothes. The woman was afraid to leave (and had no vehicle anyway). What little money they had came from marijuana sales. She knew she would be unable to get a share of it at harvest if she left now. How would she care for her kids if she left? How could she afford a home for them?”
– Closing Ranks, by Kym Kemp

This is reality. What is happening on a national level and in fact worldwide to women in the home and the workplace is almost certainly just as big a problem for women who are on the periphery of the cannabis industry. The statistics with respect to the national average and women who are abused and assaulted and even killed are staggering.

There is no real data available on google with respect to women in the cannabis space. A google search of women/domestic violence/cannabis reveals plenty of articles about how the consumption of cannabis decreases the likelihood of domestic violence but none relating to women who work in the industry who are victims of harassment or violence. There is however anecdotal evidence. There is a direct correlation between women who have experienced some sort of harassment and those who seek their own space in the industry. It is not a coincidence that women are creating safe space by opening their own dispensaries, their own women-only groups and gaining strength by sharing stories. The current prohibition of cannabis creates an isolating environment to begin with, and if abuse is added to this it is undeniable that women are at greater risk as an indirect result of prohibition.

The anecdotes are hushed up and whispered, and sometimes exposed online in a wild flurry, and then just as quickly forgotten or dismissed. Women who have experienced sexual harassment on the job in the cannabis space are probably the most known, acknowledged and vocal of any of the other sub-sets of harms. Many of these women have talked about their experiences online and are both supported and vilified. It is the same as with any other workplace harassment and possibly not more prevalent, but that certainly does not mean it is not a huge problem.

There is stigma attached to the industry, and although the Human Rights Tribunal does not shy away from stigmas, other government agencies do. Feeling judged by the establishment is not comfortable for anyone, but add the component of criminality to the judgement and it’s almost a non-starter.

It is also possible that the individuals who are most attracted to the risks of working or living in the illegal/grey markets are coming from an anti-establishment/authority mindset that positions them perfectly as victims of predatory behaviour. Such individuals are much less likely to seek help from the police, support agencies, and their families.

Abuse comes in many forms. One of the most prevalent forms that applies to employees and partners, is financial abuse. Once again the nature of the industry lends itself to a complete lack of accountability. A mother with children who intends to leave her partner will have a very hard time verifying his income. She will not be able to demand child support in a court of law if the income is not verifiable. Does she leave? It is less likely.

Likewise, if an employer cannot pay the employees of an illegal grow-op what redress is there? Women are less likely to collect unpaid wages than men. If a dispensary owner chooses to pay the rent before paying the employees, but the employees are reliant on the income as they may be subsidising their low-income with a high-risk job, what is the re-dress? Although this is not necessarily gender specific I know of at least one case in which it has occurred and the employees were women.

Physical, emotional and financial abuse is not gender specific, and it is not necessarily more prevalent in the cannabis space at all. It is however a problem and one that will be handled with transparency and without fear once prohibition ends.

Does prohibition HURT women? Yes, it absolutely does…it hurts us all.

“A young mother I knew showed up at the preschool to drop off her child. She was sporting a huge shiner. Her “partner” .. had punched her during an argument. I was appalled. “Did you call the cops?” I asked. She said, “I can’t. He has a scene.”
“These things have always bothered me about the industry. Social ills surround it. And children grow to adulthood while solutions never even get discussed, much less set into place. Families can’t turn to the authorities for assistance because of the taboo on anything that even remotely resembles snitching. The taboo against snitching is, apparently, bigger than the one against beating your wife.”
Karol Andersson, assistant editor at the McKinleyville Press

Republished with permission from Canlio.

© 2017 Kelly Coulter

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