Women Grow Leadership Summit in Denver recap

                               Locals Find Energy, Information, and Community at Women Grow Conference

                                                                            Ken Wachsberger

The second annual Women Grow Leadership Council conference, held from February 3 to 5 in

downtown Denver, brought together 1,300 enthusiastic entrepreneurs, practitioners, patients, and

other medical and recreational cannabis advocates to share secrets, enjoy samples, and expand

social and professional networks. Among the Ann Arbor-area attendees were Michelle Allen,

Dori Edwards, and Colleen Tracy. While men in attendance were welcomed, women, as the

name suggests, dominated the numbers; they see themselves as being on track to dominate the

industry as well, and Women Grow is their national organization.

For Michelle, clinic coordinator at Ann Arbor’s Intessa Certification Center, “gathering with so

many cannabis business professionals in one room, mainly women in the industry” was the

highpoint of the conference. “It was inspiring to see all facets of the community coming together

to build a credible industry, with no stigma, and to develop much-needed industry standards.”

Special guest speaker, singer and breast cancer survivor Melissa Etheridge, shared her journey

with cannabis and called attention to what she sees as a paradigm shift in society. She

encouraged state-level advocates to harness their energy and bring it to the national level to

change laws there.

Lightning Talks and Spiritual Breaks

In six intense hours of 10-minute “lightning talks” on Thursday, 30 experts shared information

on such topics as starting and running a dispensary, how to treat patients, women’s role in the

history of hemp, cannabis and pets, bringing cannabis into the mainstream conversation, building

a brand, finding balance in your business and life, and lobbying to make cannabis legal. The

sessions were broken up by one mindfulness break and one yoga stretch break, two features that

have not yet found their way into traditional academic conferences but were very much at home


For Colleen, general manager at Ann Arbor’s Bloom City Club medical cannabis dispensary, the

lightning talks were the highpoint of the conference. “Speakers shared their heartfelt stories,

challenges they experience in this under-industry, and successes. The moms for cannabis were

the most heartfelt: one went against the governing laws and the threat of long jail sentences to

save her children; another left her job as a doctor with St Jude’s Hospital to work for a cannabis

research company at a much lower pay scale.”

Dori, a partner at Bloom City Club and co-chair of Women Grow-Ann Arbor chapter, found her

highpoint in meeting Lynnette Mont-Eton Shaw, considered by some to be the godmother of

dispensaries. Her lightning topic was “Inventing the First Licensed Dispensary in History (It

Took a Woman to Do It).” “It brought me to tears that she’s been fighting for the past 19 years in

a federal court in defense of my right to have a dispensary and I didn’t even realize that she


Favorite Sessions

Twenty-four longer sessions on Friday covered such topics as trademarking your cannabis brand,

gracefully navigating negativity, growing your dispensary sales, medicating and educating the

baby boomer, empathy, corporate social responsibility for cannabis businesses, choosing a

domain name, setting up and managing a national sales team, edibles, business taxes and

accounting, and interstate licensing.

Two of those sessions stood out for Michelle:

   “High Cannabinoid Treatments for Chronic Illness and End of Life Care”: The course

was led by Dani Geen, executive assistant at Harborside Health Center; and Jane Fix,

head of patient services at Monarch Dispensary, famed medical marijuana dispensaries in

Oakland, California, and Scottsdale, Arizona, respectively. Her important takeaways

were learning “specific dosage ratios of CBD to THC for killing or stopping cancer cell

growth and reducing seizure activity; and new, cutting-edge treatment methods, including

suppositories and trans-dermal patch treatment.”

     “Edibles: Keeping Your Patients and Customers Safe:” “Especially significant, and

troubling, was discovering that there currently are no FDA-approved standards in place

pertaining to packaging of medical cannabis edibles. One speaker provided insight into

how current FDA regulations can and will impact our industry as we move forward

toward federal legalization.”

For Colleen, the most interesting session was “Cannabis and Aging.” “Seniors typically take

more drugs than any other generation, anywhere from 5 to 25 pills a day. Most of them are pills

they have to take to combat the side effects of the drugs they actually need. Cannabis has had

great success in California and Colorado in reducing seniors’ pill intake by 75%. The sad part is

the seniors are the most ‘fear-driven’ age group when it comes to using cannabis. This classroom

shared ideas on how to educate them.”

For Dori the most interesting subject was “Medicating and Educating Baby Boomers.” “We have

over 100 million people over the age of 50 in this country. They are more affluent and health

conscious than other generations. They account for one-third of all health care spending.

Seventy-two percent of them have more than one chronic illness and 80% of them have high

stress levels. We now can offer them so many non-psychoactive options to help them live

healthier lives. I feel inspired to educate and empower this generation so they can find their own

right dosages and administrative methods. This is a very exciting time.

Catching Up with Legal Cannabis States

In one session, a panel of representatives from Colorado, Alaska, and Oregon, three of the four

states where recreational marijuana use is fully legal (the fourth is Washington, and it’s legal in

the District of Columbia as well), shared lessons they learned while bringing legalization to their

states. Later, attendees were given courtesy shuttle rides to Colorado Springs to tour the one-acre

processing facility of Mindful Dispensary.

“When we toured Mindful Dispensary,” Michelle recalled, “I observed that there weren’t that

many differences between Colorado and Michigan. However, they certainly have made more

forward progress in the areas of taxation of products and seed-to-sale tracking of plants into final

distribution and sale. We can assume policy will be changing in Michigan in the near future.”

Colleen added: “In two years, Colorado’s medical knowledge and products have advanced so

much ahead of ours. Our state government won’t allow transportation from state to state so it ties

us down. Franchising is not an option due to government legalities. Ridiculous.”

Lessons Learned, Ideas to Apply

By the end of the conference, the three women were bursting with ideas on how to apply their

knowledge and insights back home in Ann Arbor.

Michelle gained self- awareness of the importance of the services that Intessa provides. “Intessa

is often the first stop for patients needing information about medical cannabis. Patients may have

been handed awful diagnoses and are scared, even fighting to save their lives. They are frustrated

with conventional medical treatments and angrily looking for a holistic, natural, non-addictive

alternative. Providing accurate information in a clear, precise, compassionate manner reduces the

stress associated with obtaining certification and treating their illness.”

She plans to implement more web-based services (weed-maps) to teach patients who they are,

what services they provide, and where they are located “and provide current and cutting-edge

information regarding treatment methods and where patients can access safe medication.”

Colleen looks forward to adopting “new methods for our patients and new medicine options,

including suppositories, patches, and proper dosing methods. I see us moving into licensing with

companies to bring products that can’t be transferred or shipped here from other states.”

Her biggest takeaways included observing “that so many people are passionately committed to

helping with this hidden treasure. People want to share what they know and what works, best

practices, and best medicine for the people. We have a big responsibility to our community and

society. NO Pressure! We look to higher educators for answers to accounting, legal, medical, on

and on. With cannabis, our communities and society look to us for our years of shared

knowledge. We want to be there for them, so we read, watch lectures, and go to education

seminars such as WG.”

Dori observed “how loving and supportive everyone was for each other. Americans think of

businesses as being competitive but people at the conference were thinking of banding together

in a cooperative way and I feel that that model will win. A lot of what I learned at the conference

confirmed what we already do. Taking care of ourselves as individuals. Making sure we have a

healthy atmosphere. One change I want to make is to establish a patient services department that

is specifically related to patients and their need for more education.”

She was reaffirmed by the conference’s triple focus on “creating businesses that prioritize people

and the environment as much as the financial. We have a corporate responsibility to take this

new industry to higher standards. A business is considered legitimate when the company is

aligned with the philosophy of the community in which it exists. At Bloom, we take our mission

to inform the community and provide compassion seriously.”

Final Words

 ***Michelle: “It was an overall positive experience. The medical cannabis industry is on the

forefront of change. It is important to keep an open mind and stay in touch with current

news and legislation and our patients’ voice!”

 ***Colleen: “Unfortunately, our country is so closed minded. Our people suffer and die

while we have the solution at our hands. If we knew a child to be starving, would we

not feed it? The sadness makes us angry but more determined.”

***Dori: “There are going to be a lot of smoking mirrors in the next couple of years with the

looming legalization of ‘pot.’ Learn as much as you can and align yourself with a

cannabis business that focuses on a holistic approach.”

Ken Wachsberger is an author, editor, political organizer, and member of the National

                                                                             Writers Union.

Previous Post
Terpene Testing: The future of Cannabis is here
Next Post
Michigan Voters! Here’s what you can do to change history and make a better world for your children.