This past Thursday I attended the Portland Chapter Women Grow Networking Event, held at Jacobsen Salt in the inner southeast. The evening was a huge success, and I had a blast! The Portland Chapter launch in May was the biggest launch yet in this national organization, and our Chapter has continued on as the largest in the country. Attendance at these monthly events has grown each time, and Thursday'sevent was a perfect example of why this chapter has been so successful.
There was a balance between networking, activism and discussion of policy reform, a celebration of the cannabis plant, and a call to support those who are cultivating and bringing it to the market. The programming began with brief introductions to a few of the Chapter sponsors, including a few words from Vice-Chair Ashley Preece-Sprackett about her testing lab, Cascadia Labs, a talk by Barbara Murry of New Approach Accounting, and a short reminder about The Weed Blog's latest activity from part owner and activist Travis Maurer. Maurer has just returned to Portland from a trip to Missouri, celebrating the widely covered release from prison of Jeff Mizanskey, a man originally sentenced to life without parole for non-violent marijuana charges.
Congressman Blumenauer spoke passionately about marijuana policy reform (as he is known to do), and eloquently made the case for controlled, regulated marijuana sales throughout the country. He spoke of the long term commitment he made to help bring about marijuana legalization in Oregon, the work he is doing to drive forward federal policy, and the progress he is making toward pushing through legislation giving easier access to banking for businesses in the cannabis industry. He alluded toward a possible return to Portland by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a speaker that I'm sure the Women Grow Co-Chairs Sara Batterby and Leah Maurer would absolutely love to host. If you're reading this, Bernie, Portland would be thrilled to have you back!
This event had another special guest, one that I must admit I was a bit more star struck by than the Congressman. Marijuana growing legend Jorge Cervantes was in the back of the room signing copies of his newest book, aptly name TheCannabis Encyclopedia, and mingling with the crowd. Meeting him was such a delight for me, and I'm so pleased that he made the time to come to our event. If you don't know who Jorge Cervantes is, he is a world renowned expert on cannabis cultivation, and he has been writing and studying the cannabis plant for decades. In order to protect his identity, for years he was pictured only in a disguise of black dreadlocks and a beret, until 2010 when he revealed his true name on the National Public Radio show Tell Me More. Check out marijuanagrowing.com for more information on Jorge Cervantes or growing cannabis. When my husband and I started our first medical plants, Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower's Bible was our main resource, along with friends who had been growing for many years.
Lining the edges of the room were tables for local businesses to promote their products and services, an integral feature of Women Grow events. Connecting entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry to the resources they need to thrive is first tenet in the Women Grow mission statement, and what better platform than face-to-face conversation with someone who needs your services. Grow For Vets was there with a table promoting their organization, Oregon Hemp Convention was there, and there was a table with information on a Cannabis Finance Bootcamp coming up at the end of this month. A local Portland company called Qi Co that makes incredible OMMP cannabis infused edibles and other cannabis products was also there with a variety of non-medicated chocolates and caramels. If you enjoy "medibles" and haven't tried Qi Co products yet, I highly recommend you get to your nearest dispensary that carries them. You can search for Qi Co on Leafly to find out where their products are available.
And in the middle of the room, a record breaking 250 people were gathered in support of the women who are helping shape our emerging cannabis industry. To my knowledge, this was the largest Women Grow gathering to date, including the national gathering in Denver this year. While there were plenty of men in attendance, this event was clearly made possible by the ladies of Women Grow. These are women in the legal cannabis industry who cultivate, process, distribute, market, consult, and more. Some people have voiced to me their opinion that women should not have to separate themselves at all from the men in this industry, and we should be able to compete in the market the way it is designed just as well as men. I've also heard others argue that we need to exclude men from the Women Grow events altogether, and make this a group that strives only for the advancement of women in the industry. In my opinion, the Portland Chapter of Women Grow has struck a wonderful balance between these two extremes. To summarize Sara Batterby's remarks at the beginning of the evening, the men who choose to come to these events are the men who we will work alongside, the men who will hire us, and the men who we will hire. We don't necessarily need to create our own separate platforms to do business, but we do need to acknowledge the fact that our access to existing platforms has historically been limited, and ladies, we have some catching up to do. After events like this one, I must admit that I feel like we're well on our way.