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Women and weed

All across Oregon, women are taking leadership roles in the emerging cannabis industry

Southern Oregon is well on its way to enjoying more of the legal cannabis lifestyle as new women-led and women-focused events encourage community, education, normalization and, of course, fun.

Tokeativity, a Portland-based cannabis community for women that hosts everything from socials to business workshops, is expanding down to the Eugene area. Co-owners Lisa Snyder and Samantha Montanaro are launching the chapter June 1 and are working with the board of Women Leaders in Cannabis, a women-run, women-focused group led by Heidi Fikstad, owner of Moss Crossing, and Anna Kaplan, operations manager at Sugartop Buddery.

“Southern Oregon will be our sister cities,” says Snyder, who is also the founder of Tokeativity. “We are excited to support and start branding outside of Portland.”

Women Leaders in Cannabis hosts roughly 50 women at The Davis Restaurant in downtown Eugene every month, Fikstad says. The organization incorporated as a nonprofit in June 2017, with a focus on inclusivity, philanthropy and normalization.

“The cannabis-friendly female community is thriving here in Eugene, and it has always made sense that the board of Women Leaders would help facilitate the transition of Tokeativity from Portland to Eugene because we have such an established, supportive community already, which will provide an ease of outreach when the chapter fully launches,” Fikstad says via email.

“Lisa’s vision is so in line with the vision of Women Leaders, and I’ve been completely sold on the importance of woman-only spaces since the first Tokeativity I attended in Portland,” she continues. “The common thread of cannabis creates a bond between women from a wide variety of backgrounds, and we’re able to accomplish so much more in the area of normalization and activism when we nurture this community.”

Tokeativity isn’t just expanding throughout the state; expect to see chapters popping up all over the country — as Snyder and Montanaro plan to connect women through cannabis internationally.

“We have really big dreams and goals of creating a force for social change,” Montanaro says. “We want to open chapters all over the world. Currently we have 50 interested women in 50 different cities in the U.S. and Canada.”

Southern Oregon isn’t a stranger to women-focused events. Rowshan Reordan was the first and only president of the Women Grow Southern Oregon chapter in 2016. She resigned after a year of organizing, pointing to the rigorous business model the national organization requires. Once she stepped down, the chapter closed.

“Southern Oregon is a different culture than Portland,” says Reordan, managing partner of Green Leaf Lab, who splits her time between Portland and her family home in Williams. “Southern Oregon is embracing women as the industry develops. There are some amazing women who are moving the industry forward.”

Since her stint with Women Grow, Reordan and her husband, Paul Loney, of cannabis law firm Loney Law Group in Ashland and Portland, have been planning a new event for canna business owners called Cultivating Business Success. Open to everyone, a kick-off event took place in April at Paschal Winery in Talent and was aimed at small businesses both inside and outside the cannabis industry.

“Our goal is to give people great information at a really affordable price so they can have a successful business,” she says.

It’s industry information as well as community connection and support that is needed for those who are making their way in this industry that has become increasingly oversaturated and competitive.

Delia Gaia Devi wears multiple hats in Southern Oregon. She’s brand ambassador for Willie’s Reserve, operations coordinator at Sovereign Cannabis, both in Talent, and chief executive of Ma’at Botanicals based in Ashland. And she was Women Grow’s vice president, working alongside Reordan.

“We are in the national cannabis scene, and we could see that the people of Southern Oregon didn’t have a platform to be informed,” Devi says. “Women Grow wasn’t the business model for us. We needed something more rootsy and local.”

Movement in that direction is happening as women are coming together, according to Devi. While there is a pull toward organizing women’s events with, for example, Jade Daniels of Ladies of Paradise in Portland, the emerging group does not want to be exclusive to women, and events likely won’t be on a regular schedule.

“We are doing events that are collaborative and serve the needs of the community as we are inspired to do so,” Devi says.

There always have been women at the helm of the cannabis industry in Southern Oregon, as the state has had a very established medical program before adult-use legalization, according to Leah Maurer, co-owner and editorial lead at The Weed Blog. Maurer also helped launch the Women Grow Portland chapter, which wasn’t women-exclusive.

“I felt like we hit this giant undercurrent that was already there, of these women ready to go for it,” Maurer says, describing the momentum that was building after Measure 91 passed in 2014.

“As someone who is networked into the national cannabis industry and who attends events, I feel like there is something special in Oregon with the way women come together in this industry and really support and empower each other instead of seeing each other as competition.”

Brie Malarkey, founder of Sun Breeze, Inc., a family of companies that include Sunna Ra Acres in Shady Cove, Sun God Medicinals, and Breeze Botanicals dispensaries in Gold Hill and Ashland, says Southern Oregon has been kind of delayed when it comes to forming communities.

While she went to a few Women Grow events in the beginning, logistically it was challenging due to the events’ distance — she was in Shady Cove and Upper Rogue, and most of the events were in Ashland. Recently she attended one of the monthly networking and educational events organized by Grown Rogue in Medford.

“They put together a networking event and they had a group of panelists talking about our experiences and cannabis moving into the mainstream,” Malarkey says. “There was a bang-out turnout and some huge demand for community. So many of us are going a million miles a minute, and it’s really hard to stop and go to a cannabis mixer or networking events.”

Jessica McClain of Moon Shine Gardens, a women-owned cannabis farm founded in 2016 that’s located on the outskirts of Grants Pass, shares a similar sentiment.

“There are mixers that are going on that are cannabis focused, but not solely for women,” says McClain, who is the farm’s office manager. She says the support her farm has received has come from many sources.

“Being a women-owned farm, we don’t make a huge deal of it,” McClain says. “We do have good support and awesome guys, and we don’t want to have that exclusive women’s club going on, but there are a ton of women in the industry. Once somebody loves you, they will sing your praises. Those boosts of community have been pretty cool.”

For Lynn Sherman of Willamette Valley Alchemy in Eugene, events organized by WLC have been invaluable. In April, the organization had an event with the Emerald Trade Alliance, which brought together a mixed-gender crowd of cannabis industry folks.

“I moved to Oregon in 2016, and most of my girlfriends are in this group,” Sherman says. “The opportunity is definitely there. The biggest thing is support systems. Your first meeting might be scary, but as soon as you jump in it’s the most welcoming group. Portland has been a massive inspiration.”

You can follow Liz Gold on Twitter/Instagram @lizstacygold or read her blog at www.14karatliving.com.

Rowshan Reordan, managing partner of Green Leaf Lab, was the first president of the Southern Oregon chapter of Women Grow. She splits her time between Portland and her family home in Williams.
Valerie Montague, left, and Kristine Miller own Moon Shine Gardens in Josephine County. Photo Courtesy of Moon Shine Gardens