Event raises $1,000 for organization working to expunge the records of all Canadians convicted of simple possession of cannabis
Capping off a week of weed-related activities in the Greater Toronto Area, including the O’Cannabiz Conference & Expo, members of the cannabis business community were invited Apr. 27 to an evening of canapes and networking, benefitting Cannabis Amnesty.
As the hosts of Canapes for Amnesty, Toronto-headquartered Lifford Cannabis Solutions and Vancouver-based CanWeeDine, finished up filming a private dinner party inside, where six women in Canada’s cannabis industry were invited to talk about diversity in the sector, waiting guests were served virgin mimosas on the front lawn of Lifford Cannabis Solutions’ Jarvis Street office, in the heart of downtown Toronto.
But it was something else entirely that seemed to draw attention from passersby. Evidently, the sight of professionally dressed individuals smoking recreational cannabis—even six months after legalization—is still a novelty for some in Canada’s largest city.
Got a question about cannabis? Ask me anything
Canapes for Amnesty featured an “ask me anything” (AMA) panel, where six female industry leaders answered open questions from the audience, followed by hors d’oeuvre (though, not the kind medicated with cannabis) from some of Toronto’s top chefs, including Chefs Reena Rampersad, Charlotte Langley and Lida-Tuy Dinh.
The first AMA round featured Danielle O’Beirne, director of licensing and strategic initiatives for Auxly Cannabis Group; Myrna Gillis, CEO of Aqualitas, a licenced producer in Nova Scotia growing organic cannabis with aquaponics; and Danielle Jackson (Miz D), a Vancouver-born artist, advocate and entrepreneur who received enthusiastic support when she came out in preference of the term “legacy market” over “black market” when describing pre-legalization cannabis business.
On the topic of the future of human resources in the cannabis space, Gillis told attendees the focus should be on onboarding and retention while Jackson mentioned the notion of using the cannabis plant itself to build community at work, saying how Aurora Cannabis Inc. offers a Sun Life Financial-administered Extended Health Care plan to cover some employees’ medical cannabis.
The second AMA round featured Ashley Chiu, cannabis strategic growth and risk leader at Ernst & Young (EY); Michelle Cliffe, founder and CEO of Stachie, which makes labels for cannabis storage; and Lisa Harun, co-founder of Vapium, an electronic vaporizer for dry cannabis bud.
When asked about her perspective of the future cannabis market, Chiu said more big brands will be getting into the space. Although no specific brand names were mentioned, she did say that several companies have been doing research on cannabis from the safety of offline computers in clandestine locations—away from head offices—for longer than the general public may suspect.
With regard to barriers to entry into the cannabis sector, Chiu, Cliffe and Harun agreed that any business touching the plant would have more trouble getting into the industry, but that taking risks and being creative in execution is the only way to succeed. “There are very few resources for women who want to make it in the industry,” said Cliffe, whose Stashie product presented quite a few hurdles, from making her labels eco-friendly to owning a cannabis business that isn’t covered under the Cannabis Act.
Event welcomes all support
For those expecting a female-only panel to attract a female-only audience, AMA offered a welcome surprise; there were plenty of male attendees who participated with enthusiasm.
Giving attendees added impetus to brave another networking event on the tail end of an already busy week was the chance to support Cannabis Amnesty, an organization working to expunge the records of all Canadians who have been convicted for “simple possession of cannabis,” as opposed to merely providing pardons for the non-violent crime.
Rampersad took a break from catering the gathering to explain her work with Cannabis Amnesty and asking attendees not only to give money to the cause, but also to contact local lawmakers and make their support known. “The mindset [of criminalizing cannabis] is archaic, and it’s time to get them up to speed,” she told the crowd. “Please let them know you think it’s BS, too.”
The hosts managed to raise $1,000 for Cannabis Amnesty, as well as showcase some mock-ups for what the newly formed Cannabis Beverage Producers Alliance, co-founded, in part, by Lifford, would like weed-infused drinks to look like in the legal market.
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