In this Cannabis Creative Blog, I sit down with Annie Davis, founder of Growing Impact and Vice President of Marketing for Flow Cannabis Co. We talk about cannabis and motherhood, what it takes to increase diversity in leadership, and what the industry could look like in 10 years.
Few cannabis users face the same stigma as mothers.
Despite the numerous proven medicinal benefits that can help moms show up happier, healthier, and better rested for their kids. “canna-moms” still face heavy stigma both online and IRL for talking about cannabis.
Anne Davis is changing that.
Davis is the CEO of Growing Impact, a cannabis strategy consultancy as well as the Vice President of Marketing for Flow Cannabis Co. She’s also a mom to two kids and a regular cannabis user.
Davis has motherhood to thank for entering the industry, encouraged on by another mother in her mom’s group, Karli Warner of Garden Society. But Davis’ journey with cannabis began years before that.
Like many of us, Davis first came into contact with the plant in high school and college, but avoided it, calling herself a “goody-two shoes”. It wasn’t until she graduated college and moved in with roommates that she began to come into close contact with cannabis on a regular basis. Encouraged by the easy access, Davis started consuming and much to her surprise, found that she was able to skip her prescription sleeping pills on the nights she smoked. Davis has struggled with insomnia for most of her life, taking prescriptions since she was just 15 to help her sleep.
She continued to use cannabis until her first pregnancy. Davis describes a therapeutic relationship with the plant that she didn’t fully appreciate until her anxiety and insomnia returned without it. As her understanding and appreciation for the plant grew, so too did her passion for sharing cannabis with moms. Though “mommy wine culture” is pervasive in the US, cannabis use amongst mothers is still looked down on. Through her work with Growing Impact and Flow Cannabis, Davis proves that cannabis use amongst mothers does not prevent great achievements.
Davis is also a champion voice for women in cannabis, proving that a flexible remote schedule that supports her family life is only beneficial to the work she’s able to do for both of her companies. In an industry that still looks so much like a boy’s club the higher up you go, Davis brings the crucial perspective that other perspectives are valuable, not as tokenism but as a way to bring the best assets together to create the strongest team possible.
What are you most excited about in the industry right now?
AD: All of the product innovation and research being done around terpenes and minor cannabinoids.
Because of the federal status of legalization it’s been very challenging for scientists to better understand what specifically is it in the plant that creates different effects and impacts on people. The cannabis plant is comprised of over 100 cannabinoids and terpenes; the compounds that contribute to the various effects that people feel. The most well known is THC and second is CBD, but everything else beyond that, the average consumer has no idea. Some of these compounds are very expensive to extract from the plant so it makes that inaccessible.
Some of the things I’m most excited about are the inclusion of minor cannabinoids. Take CBN which can be helpful for sleep. For someone like me who consumes for sleep, knowing I could look for a tincture, a pill, or an edible that includes CBN- and maybe doesn’t even include THC, that is going to blow open the universe of potential consumers. Especially because there are so many people who have no interest in or are nervous about the psychoactivity and that’s kept from them from touching anything that has cannabinoids in it. Through research and development and consumer marketing, we’ll be able to get these really therapeutic compounds in the plant to people who can really benefit from it without that psychoactive activity.
What’s one thing you think needs to change in the industry?
AD: A couple things.
Firstly, this bias towards indoor cultivation versus outdoor, and the default being the energy intensive indoor grows as opposed to greenhouse or fully sungrown. I think that’s going to become a problem for the industry over time that affect public sentiment. We’re trying to earn public sentiment; change hearts and minds about what this plant is. When we begin to have more pressure on our electric grids from these cultivations, when we begin to have pollution from these cultivations, that could backfire and harm the industry. It would behoove the industry as a whole to measure and manage the environmental impact of our operations from the start, rather than getting to a point 5 to 10 years from now when study comes out about the environmental impacts of the industry and we have to change all of our operations. That’s a lot money in retrofitting and reducing environmental impact.
Secondly, when you look at what opportunities really exist for disadvantage communities, people of color, for those who have been impacted negatively by the war on drugs – there are varying degrees of success in states across the country in terms of how much they are creating opportunities for folks to own businesses, to work in businesses, to be trained to work in the cannabis industry. I think we need a higher level of accountability to companies and our legislatures for creating these opportunities. We need to be measuring job creation, business ownership, and improving access to capital for entrepreneurs. I know there’s been a lot of hope that we would create these opportunities, but they’ve been slow. There are people who have been waiting years to open their stores. There are a number of things that have been intended for creating opportunities for a diverse group of people that have not fully been realized.
We need to take a hard look at where we’re falling short and make some changes so that this industry can be one that doesn’t follow the same path as all the other traditional industries have where success begets success. If you have money then you can raise money. If you are someone who has never run a business, how do we equip you to do so? If you want to participate and not own a business, what are the options for you? How do we structure workplaces and hiring processes and investor networks to best support those folks?
There was a report released recently about women losing ground in the cannabis industry. What are your thoughts on that?
AD: I read that report to much to my dismay and I’ve seen some of those trends myself. I know some really talented women in the industry who have either left their roles or been released from their roles over the last couple of months.
There is still some degree of old boy’s network that exists, especially in investor circles. When you think about who is driving the hiring of senior executives, it’s often times being driven by a board of investors and look at who those people are and the networks of people they know. It will require real, proactive recruiting techniques to encourage diver hires, like using executive search firms that prioritize diversity or using techniques where they’re looking at resumes scrubbed for any identifier of gender or anything like that.
It’s structing roles and organization to create a culture that’s as inclusive as possible. There are some aspects of flexibility that may require meeting times to be adjusted or structured meetings to be different so you can accommodate diverse leadership at the top.Diverse perspective is one that benefits organizations and leaders, and should be fostered. There’s different types of emotional intelligence, different perspectives on cultivation of talent, of people management- they’re not gendered or not, it’s just what diversity and diverse perspectives bring to decision making.
And this is for diversity of all sorts at all levels of organizations. Not just because we owe it to those community who have been disproportionally impacted by the war on drugs to create economic opportunity, but because those people bring valuable perspectives that can help businesses grow. It shouldn’t be tokenism; the participation of diverse talent is an asset to growing business. I think and know there are progressive leaders at the helm of many organizations that are thinking about this. But I voice whenever I can because people need to be remined.
What do you see the future of cannabis as?
AD: I would really hope 5 to 10 years from now we have a federally legal framework that has some degree of FDA regulations, that we are looking at how to make consumption as healthy as possible, giving people transparency and information about what’s going into the products, how those products were grown, and cultivation techniques. One of the really benefits of federal legalization is being able to transport these agricultural products from regions they grow really well outdoors to regions of the country where it doesn’t grow as well.
Ideally, you’ll see greater efficiencies, and greater access. And that access is not just a proliferation of retailers, but you’re able to talk to your doctor about it without fear. Your doctor will know and have information about this plant, they can talk to you about different products and maybe you can even purchase it the same was as other medicinal products. I would hope we get to a place where the plant is understood, destigmatized and accessible so that it can benefit people regardless of means and where they live.
What’s your favorite fun fact about cannabis?
AD: Usually my favorite fun fact is asking people what they think they know about the plant and what do you think makes it have the effects it does? People will usually say CBD or THC or something. I like to tell them; did you know there are over 100 other cannabinoids in the plant that we are just on the cusp of understanding and each one has unique therapeutic benefits. It’s so exciting to just be scratching the surface of what this plant can do.