When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
I’ve worked in the industry since Florida made medical cannabis legal in 2018. But I’ve been passionate about plant medicine for much longer.
In 2012, a week before my 39th birthday, I received the shocking news that I had stage two breast cancer. I researched potential causes and cures and stumbled upon a private Facebook group called “Cannabis Oil Success Stories.”
After reading about people who had cured their tumors, including stage four cancer, with cannabis oil, I knew I had to try this option instead of chemotherapy and radiation. So I smuggled away for Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) and started dosing daily. I also changed my lifestyle, eliminating dietary toxins, praying daily, and practicing kundalini chanting and meditation.
I chose not to pursue traditional medical protocols and was honest with my doctor. (Note, this was my third physician, as the first two fired me for “non-compliance.”) I continued to transform myself spiritually, emotionally and physically. However, my family thought I was crazy for taking this route. As a “concession,” I underwent a double mastectomy and reconstruction on November 28, 2012.
Afterward, my bewildered surgical oncologist said he couldn’t believe the analysis of the breast tissue. The tumors had vanished completely. He said, “I don’t know what you did, but you don’t need chemo or radiation.” That’s not true, however. He knew what I did.
I believe he knew the tumors were gone and operated anyway because I had already signed the forms. After all, he was a surgeon, and that’s what they do.
From that day, I knew I wanted to work in the cannabis industry to help others heal and potentially avoid the medical and emotional trauma I experienced. I also wanted to eradicate the stigma surrounding cannabis use and establish it as a legitimate medicine.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
Most of my industry experience has been with ACS Laboratory, an ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accredited, DEA-registered, CLIA-licensed cannabis and hemp testing facility. As a third-party testing laboratory, we work with MMTCs (Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers) in Florida to test products for potency and purity.
I have a background in marketing technology, so I created my role to include corporate communications, client services, search engine optimization, content development, budtender education and corporate growth.
My biggest challenge and opportunity working with brands in this role has been to increase cannabis testing literacy. Most brands realize purity and potency analyses are essential to produce high-quality products. But they don’t always know how to read the test results on the Certificates of Analysis (COA) or transmute that information into actionable marketing and education for their budtenders and patients.
COAs show the potency of 11 common cannabinoids and the potential occurrence of contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, residual solvents, mycotoxin, filth and foreign material, and water activity. Critically, COAs also document terpenes and flavonoids, which are essential to the plant’s flavor, fragrance, pigment, and therapeutic properties.
Brands that can read and translate these results have an incredible opportunity to differentiate their products and inform their audience.
Another challenge has been to get brands on board to implement bilingual practices. I co-founded Cannafamilia™, an educational initiative designed to inform and educate the Spanish-speaking community through experiential events and pre-recorded TV-quality variety shows in the Spanish language only. Through ACS Laboratory, we also have started to offer our clients an option to translate their COAs into Spanish. It is important to be able to educate this large demographic, and this starts with the brands in the industry.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
I would allow ancillary cannabis businesses like ACS Laboratory that sell services to advertise to clients legally. Ancillary brands are not plant-touching, yet we still can’t run digital ads or even send postcard mailers today due to outdated restrictions. These rules are unfortunate because ACS Laboratory is an education-first organization that publishes research-based content for growers, processors, manufacturers, retailers, dispensaries, consumers and patients. We have so much to share and deserve to amplify our message like any other brand can.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
At ACS Laboratory, we continuously connect with potential clients and even patients through our comprehensive content strategy. We regularly publish research-based blogs on our website, using a journalistic approach on topics ranging from cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids to testing methods, COA education and regulations. Our valuable articles drive significant traffic and spark conversation through our social channels.
I also work with ACS Laboratory’s dispensary clients directly, providing summary reports for the products delivered and educating budtenders so they can support patients. The best channels for me to connect with these clients are email, phone, face-to-face meetings and dispensary visits.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
I really love the transparency of Jungle Boys. This LA-based growers collective spends significant time educating people on clean cultivation practices, and I can tell how passionate they are about producing quality cannabis.
I also geek out on hash and solventless extraction, following Nature’s Lab, Nikka T, and The Dank Duchess for fascinating information.
Beard Bros is another trailblazing organization I track closely for its incredible commitment to cultural and scientific plant medicine information. I obsessively read their blogs and social posts to stay current on the industry.
Finally, I enjoy reading anything from cannabis journalist Rachelle Gordon, as her narrative and enthusiasm are super appealing to my short attention span.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?
This one tip has multiple facets. Have a strategy. Understand brand voice and strengths. Find a brand that you love and align with and monitor them closely. Apply everything you were good at in the corporate world to cannabis. And most importantly, learn to pivot.