Women Grow Leadership Summit ’19 Experience!

Women Grow held their Leadership Summit in Washington, DC this year at the Washington Court Hotel. Your Gentleman scored an invite despite my Y chromosome cuz I’m hip like pinstripes and tail fins, daddyo. Plus I’ve been playing Chun Li since middle school. So let’s Lightning Kick this thing off already!

Press Credentials Women Grow Leadership Summit 2019 photo

Who is Women Grow?

Women Grow is a networking organization for women in the cannabis industry. It was founded in Denver in 2014 by Jane West, Jazmin Hupp, & Julie Batkiewicz.

Today it’s CEO is local superstar Dr. Chanda Macias, who is also CEO of the National Holistic Healing Center dispensary near Dupont Circle. With a DC MMJ owner in charge, it’s not surprising that the wholly separate Women Grow organization is unaffiliated with DC’s unique marijuana gifting scene. DC’s medical marijuana program has long been at odds with the District’s ganjapreneurs, who they see as a threat to their businesses and an affront to their very expensive licenses.

Dr Chanda Macias DC marijuana leader photo
Dr. Chanda Macias

My impression of Dr. Macias is that she’s one of the cooler owners about the gifting brands, but not that cool. They were noticeably absent from the vendor tables, but there were several local CBD brands. I + I Botanicals, for instance, launched their CBD beauty products at the Leadership Summit.

EDIT: My mistake, Pink Fox was there. So there was one I71 brand represented. Pink Fox, as far as I understand it, does gifting but has always presented themselves as a Lifestyle brand. The tee shirts and so on are what they’re really pushing. That’s how I71 should be done, in my opinion, and they should be applauded for making it work. Still, there are hundreds of brands in DC, so why is only one involved with Women Grow? Any why Pink Fox, in particular? I can take a guess, but asking the questions, I think, is more important.

I + I Botanicals Women Grow launch team photo

Further, I found only one female-owned I71 brand among the many attendees I spoke with. I’ve heard frustration from the community about the direction of Women Grow in the past. It seems these two camps remain divided today.

It’s true, though, that there’s far fewer women in I71 now compared to the early, halcyon days of yore. Too many raids, too many robberies. A young woman connected to the pop-up scene was murdered a few months back over three pounds at her home in Hyattsville, as I hear it. DC’s underground weed market is a lot more dangerous than it used to be for the gifters.

Who Will You Meet at Women Grow?

I talked to so many people I crawled into my couch for two days afterward. Women came from all over the US to attend this Leadership Summit. I met a fellow blogger and cannabis connoisseur from LA. I chatted with a vineyard owner from Seattle who’s thinking about infusing her wine with weed. One lady I spoke with travelled from Massachusetts along with her chiropractor simply because they were both interested in learning more about our favorite plant.

I learned about the MMJ programs in Maine and New Jersey from attendees that worked in the dispensaries there, talked with a member of NY NORML’s legal team. and even met a woman growing hemp in Columbia! The country, I mean. Oh, and our friends from District Hemp were there, too!

My point is that there’s a place at Women Grow for people at all levels of experience in the cannabis industry, including those just testing the waters.

I was very impressed with the reps from Atlantic Testing Labs in Maryland! I grilled their scientist for a bit on the exaggerated THC reports I’ve come across in Maryland dispensaries, flowers listed at 37%, 39%, ridiculous numbers that are an insult to the intelligence of informed consumers. It sounds to me like Atlantic is running a legit lab out in Millersville.

Interesting note from Atlantic! Maryland growers and processors are allowed to send their test samples out to multiple labs and use whichever set of results they want on the label.

Women Grow Exhibitors

Medical marijuana companies from DC (NHHC), Maryland (Columbia Care), and even Pennsylvania (Ilera) had tables and were recruiting on-site. What a fabulous opportunity!

I asked Columbia Care’s reps about their timeline for opening their Virginia dispensary– sounds like early 2020. That’s later than I’ve read from some of the other licensees, but early ’20 sounds like a more realistic scenario.

Brookland Smoke Shop was the lone bong shop in attendance. I confirmed they don’t do gifting there. Most head shops don’t these days, on account of the onslaught of raids by the Metropolitan Police Dep’t on brick & mortar I71 operations. Is that really what you want the city’s limited police resources focused on, folks? Busting pot dealers? Ah, but I digress.

Women Grow Speakers

I was impressed with the speakers I heard and especially that time was scheduled for each to take audience questions. Caroline Phillips stands out in particular. Another hometown heroine, Caroline founded the National Cannabis Festival and helps organize other events, like this year’s Women Grow Leadership Summit.

Caroline Phillips DC National Cannabis Festival founder photo
Caroline Phillips

Caroline Phillips

On Friday, Caroline talked about the challenges facing female entrepreneurs. At the first NCF, for example, she got a call from the fencing company she hired that someone from her team was harassing their employees.

They were talking about Caroline, of course, who had been trying to confirm a schedule with a surly guy that refused to believe a woman was in charge of the event and retreated to his work truck to taddle on her. Eww, gross. They got a new fencing company the following year. Boom!

On Saturday, Caroline led a workshop on how to throw a cannabis event with a focus on crunchy budget tips. I came away with a clear understanding of the challenges and requirements for putting on a successful, legal event.

Deborah Johnson The Arcview Group photo
Deborah Johnson

Deborah Johnson

I sat in on the Investor Pitch workshop led by Deborah Johnson from The Arcview Group, a network of high net-worth canna-capitalists. She provided evidence for why investing with women-led companies is smart business. Arcview’s research indicates these companies tend to be more frugal with their cashflow than their male counterparts.

Deborah went over the common, easily-overlooked mistakes she sees entrepreneurs make and explained more advanced concepts, like the importance of an accurate valuation. She also offered valuable, women-specific negotiating advice to the audience.

More!

Other attendees I talked to mentioned the CBD panel and the Sex & Cannabis In The #MeToo Era talk as highlights of their experience. I, uhhh, skipped the latter cuz I didn’t read past “Sex” and noped the eff out of there. Nope nope nope.

You Should Attend Women Grow

There was a lot to like about the Women Grow Leadership Summit. I can’t think of a better networking opportunity. MJ BizCon is awesome, but it’s a bit like trying to drink water out of a firehose. Women Grow was more intimate, more relaxed, and the supportive atmosphere is built into the organization’s vision.

What I took away from the Leadership Summit, the thread that ran through all these talks, can be summed up as: I did it. I’m doing it. You can do it, too.

There was plenty of good crunchy bits of information throughout the conference, too! Women Grow is empowering the current and future female leaders in cannabis with insight and support. I really can’t recommend it enough.

Luckily, Women Grow has regular chapter meetings in Washington, DC and Maryland! They meet on the first Thursday of each month. You can find more info on their page here.