Van der Pop is a brand founded by women, for women, in the pursuit of opening up and celebrating a candid exploration of cannabis. As we approach legalization day in Canada, it is a highly appropriate time to celebrate some of the women that are paving the way within this emerging industry. Of course, there are so many more, but as a glimpse of a much larger range of inspiring trailblazers, read on and learn more about their experiences with shaping the future of cannabis in Canada.
Ashleigh Brown is a medical cannabis user and passionate advocate for the rights and education of the broader medical cannabis community. In 2017, still a new patient herself, she founded a social media community alongside a handful of other patients.
This community, named SheCann, was created with the intention of providing information, resources and support to prospective and existing users of medical cannabis. The response was immediate; in less than a year, the group grew to over 1,500 members.
“For me, medical cannabis was something that literally landed on my lap at a time when I had exhausted all other options,” says Ashleigh. “After years of having hundreds of seizures a month, I got a legal prescription and my life changed overnight. But despite my enthusiasm, I didn’t know anything about what to take, or how much I needed. So I turned to the internet and discovered that there were thousands of patients just like me. There were very knowledgeable groups online but many were not suited to women new to cannabis. Women were shy and confused. So a few of us decided we wanted to create a space that was safe, compassionate, and empowering.”
Although it is geared towards women, SheCann also welcomes supportive and respectful men and members of industry, including legal clinics and licensed producers. SheCann’s primary goal is to create a compassionate space for patients to speak openly about their journeys as proactive users of medical cannabis.
“It has been an incredibly overwhelming experience to witness so many women come together to share their journeys with medical cannabis,” says Ashleigh. “I am humbled by the kindness they show each other everyday. For me, legalization means that thousands of women who are curious about cannabis will finally feel comfortable exploring its potential medical and wellness benefits. SheCann will be there to help them every step of the way.”
After more than two decades of experience in the industry and a laundry list of roles, Jamie Shaw recalls, “I was first introduced to cannabis in the form of hash in my junior high girls' bathroom.” Based out of Vancouver, B.C., Jamie’s rebellious spirit has continued to infuse her work in redefining the ways that people have access to cannabis.
Currently, Jamie is a Partner at Groundwork Consulting, a Director of the B.C. Independent Cannabis Association and an Advisor to Niche Canada. Jamie built her reputation in the industry acting as a Director, Board Member, and Spokesperson for the BC Compassion Club Society, President of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD) and supported government relations for MMJ Canada. The theme of working towards a streamlined approach to cannabis is evident in each role she’s held. When speaking to the progression of her career, Jamie explains, “When I was at CAMCD, we were doing work no one else was doing. When licensing became available in B.C., it was important for me to be able to provide support, so I left CAMCD and began shepherding retail businesses through municipal licensing.”
This attitude may ring most true in her participation in government operations; on the provincial level, Jamie lobbied for and consulted on dispensary regulations in Vancouver, Victoria and a host of other cities. On a federal scale, Jamie acted as an expert witness in the Allard trial, which inspired the development of the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) and led Health Canada to establish a vital role in the distribution and production of medical cannabis.
Jamie’s supporting a brighter path for cannabis users by defining a process and believing decisions should be influenced by intuition and integrity and not “just because that’s how they were done before.”
From her background as an elected Councillor for Surrey British Columbia and Board Member for the Fraser Health Authority, Barinder has learned that knowledge is power, explaining she is truly fascinated by “educating people to make informed decisions that can lead positive change in their lives.”
This is the mindset that led Barinder to supporting the growth of the legalized cannabis industry through her work with the National Institute for Cannabis Health and Education (NICHE). By “providing impartial and evidence-based research about cannabis production and use in Canada,” this Vancouver-based non-profit organization is working to bridge generations of cannabis users through the power of information. According to Barinder, “the work that NICHE does is not only about informing citizens on why Canada is legalizing cannabis, but also on how legalization is going to impact the Canadian community.”
As a feminist, Barinder also saw the need to develop Shetalks, a community-based organization intended to provide support and empowerment to women.
Though Barinder is clearly a natural leader, she says her ability to forecast the needs for both of these organizations was particularly prompted by her experience as a mother. “When you are setting an example for your kids you learn how to assess things in a very different way,” she says, “This definitely exposed me to a broader understanding of community needs and taught me how to make thoughtful decisions that can support a brighter future for our youth.”
Trina Fraser, one of the leading cannabis business lawyers in Canada, has been involved in the industry since 2013. Based out of Ottawa, Trina is a co-managing partner at Brazeau Seller Law and Head of BSL’s Canna-Law Group. “What inspired me (and continues to inspire me) is that we are creating an entirely new industry,” explains Trina. “To not only participate in such a dynamic field of business but to actually have a role in shaping it is pretty special.”
There’s no doubt that forging an entirely new path isn’t easy. When asked what advice she would give to women entering the cannabis industry, Trina says, “find great mentors within the cannabis industry who will be your sounding board, keep you focused and give you the inside scoop on how this industry works.”
As she has grown her experience, a resourceful attitude has been a particularly helpful part of Trina’s “toolkit;” in 2013, Trina was the first person at her firm to define her focus and practice on the Canadian cannabis industry. From there, Trina explained, “the volume grew to more than I could handle alone and the nature of the work expanded beyond my areas of expertise. So I sought out others in my firm with complementary areas of competence and grew from there.” This was how the Canna-Law Group was formed, which now works with different businesses “to successfully execute on their business plans with confidence that the regulatory framework is being respected.”
With a clear passion for the industry, Trina has chosen to set an example through her work and dedication in supporting a vibrant new system for legalized cannabis in Canada.
The budding cannabis landscape in Canada is certainly filled with women who have unique and powerful stories to share. Each of these individuals, in their own right, have driven the cannabis industry forward in different ways and, in turn, have done incredible work to champion the female voice. Let these stories serve as inspiration of dreams to come, with trust that with the right tools and ambition, you too have the power to transform them into reality.
By Sophie Naprawa
Van der Pop does not condone or endorse the illegal consumption of cannabis. This article is not meant as medical advice. Prior to using cannabis for medical purposes, please consult your physician.