This last Thursday I attended my first ever Women Grow event. The event was put on by the Portland chapter of Women Grow, and was held at The Refuge in Southeast Portland. I really like that part of Portland. It's near the part of Portland that my wife used to live. It is an industrial area that has a lot of establishments that have great food and drinks. It's my understanding that the Portland chapter of Women Grow is the fastest growing chapter in the entire country, and you could tell by Thursday's event. There were over 200 people in attendance, which made the event the largest one to date for the chapter.
Before I even got into the venue I knew I was in for a treat. A couple of people were stepping outside to get some fresh air before the event kicked off, and they were talking about how electric the atmosphere was in the building. Everyone in attendance is either in the industry already, or is researching how to do so. There were dispensary owners there, medible companies, testing companies, authors, marketers, attorneys, and just about every other type of person in present. Most of the crowd was comprised of women, as expected, but there were quite a few men there too. Some of them went there to support their spouses, others came to hear the fantastic speakers, and some just came to learn and network because Women Grow events are perfect opportunities to do so.
After some mingling and messages from Women Grow sponsors, the speakers came up one at a time. I posted up in the back corner of the room to take some notes, which is where I often end up at presentations. The first speaker was Meghan Walstatter. My friend and business partner, Travis, had introduced me to her earlier in the evening, and I was very impressed with her passion and knowledge. Meghan is a dispensary owner, and served on the finance committee for the Oregon Measure 91 campaign. During Meghan's speech she recalled the moment when Measure 91 officially passed. I think that every marijuana fan in Oregon will always remember their own experience, and hearing hers gave me goosebumps.
Meghan also talked about going down to Salem to testify before the Legislature in regards to marijuana related bills that were floating around the Capitol chambers. She described how when the session first started, the marijuana community had a lot of infighting going on, which happens all to often in the marijuana community. It's actually why I don't attend as many meetings as I used to, because it gets exhausting hearing everyone fighting with each other all the time. People don't want to listen to each other, which is why I often just do my part by contacting my legislators and focusing on spreading awareness online instead of sitting through meeting after meeting. With that being said, Meghan was quick to point out that at the end of the session there was a lot more cohesion from the community, even if there were still some defeats due to politicians wanting to infuse their own beliefs into the implementation process for legalization, and in restructuring the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.
Meghan offered up two areas that activists should target in the near future. She referred to them as 'the next battles.' The first is ensuring that there are no taxes on medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana is one thing, but patients shouldn't have to pay extra taxes on their medicine, just as they don't have to pay an extra tax on pharmaceuticals. The second one is banking for the marijuana industry, which is something that has to be figured out sooner than later. Meghan ended her presentation by pointing out that Oregon is positioned to be a national leader in the marijuana industry. She also pointed out that the Oregon cannabis community raised over $160,000 for Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer, which was more than what was raised at a national cannabis event for Presidential candidate Rand Paul ($120k). That's powerful stuff!
Meghan is a prime example of someone from the industry that has given back to the movement. That's something that is so rare right now, that I think it's worth encouraging any and all Portland TWB readers to support what she does to return the favor. Her and her husband own a dispensary called Pure Green (3738 NE Sandy Blvd. / Portland, OR). Go in, support their business, and make sure to thank them for their activism. Also check them out on Facebook, and give them a 'like,', and show them some love on Leafly and WeedMaps.
The second speaker was campaigning legend Liz Kaufman. I remember Travis telling me about Liz Kaufman when he was originally putting together the Measure 91 team. It was very fun to hear about it again, but this time from Liz's perspective. At first she didn't want to do the campaign. She tried to Travis and the team into finding someone else for various reasons. But she had a conversation with her husband who encouraged her to do it. She then talked about how her husband was suffering from cancer at the time, and that he was using marijuana to help fight off his cancer. They live in Clackamas County, which is definitely one of the more conservative counties in Oregon. They would literally bury the marijuana in their backyard because they were so afraid of getting caught with it. Here is a very successful, respected couple living in fear because one of them is using medical marijuana to treat cancer. That's harsh.
But, as she pointed out, they don't have to do that anymore now that marijuana is legal in Oregon for both medical and recreational purposes. The crowd cheered very loudly when she talked about it, and I couldn't help but smile the entire time. Liz asked the crowd to raise their hand if they were from Portland, and then for people outside of Portland to raise their hand. The crowd was about 60% from Portland, and 40% from outside of Portland. She then asked for everyone to raise their hand if they voted for Measure 91, which I think everyone in the room did, as expected. She then said to keep your hand raised if you have contacted your legislator to talk to them about how implementation is going for Measure 91. There was about 40% of the crowd left holding their hand up. She then asked how many had contacted Governor Brown's office to encourage her to sign the bill that would allow early sales of recreational marijuana, and sadly, there were only three people with their hand still up (I was one of them).
Liz then pointed out the importance of contacting the Governor. She said that the Governor's office literally keeps track of every call, and whether it was for or against. We need to pump up that 'for' side. Governor Brown's phone number is (503) 378-4582, and was provided to the crowd by Liz. she ended her speech by urging the crowd to enter the mainstream. She said to get on the PTA committees at schools, to let people know that they are in the industry. That's how we go mainstream and change the hearts and minds of the masses. She said to contact legislators early and often, and to tell them where they are from, that they pay taxes, that their kids go to public schools, and that we need tax dollars from the marijuana industry supporting our communities, and to not let those dollars go out of state.
The final speaker of the evening was Oregon House Representative Ann Lininger. Ann is probably the most sympathetic politician at the state capital when it comes to marijuana. She actually volunteered for the Measure 91 campaign, and even brought her son to some of the volunteer functions. She did so because she wanted to point out that she wants her son to grow up in a state that has a regulated marijuana market, and not a thriving black market that makes it easier for kids to obtain marijuana. She grew up in Ashland, so she knows a thing or two about marijuana.
One thing that I loved that she did, as did the other two speakers, was giving praise to Travis and Leah Maurer for legalizing marijuana in Oregon. Unlike other politicians at the capital, who don't respect the will of Oregon voters, Ann Lininger 'gets it.' She also pointed out that Anthony Johnson did more to help fend off attacks on the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program and establish good will than anyone else, which is something that he rarely if ever, gets the credit that he deserves for. Travis and Anthony both have been getting a lot of criticism from the marijuana community and blame for what is happening to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, which is completely unfounded. Anthony and Travis didn't vote for changes to the OMMP, Oregon politicians did. Anthony and Travis deserve to be praised, not bashed (I'll be talking about this in a separate article).
This was a very tough year at the legislature for marijuana bills. There were obviously some defeats, but there were also some victories. She said that she, and a handful of other politicians in Salem tried as hard as they could to protect the OMMP, and to prevent local Oregon governments from banning marijuana businesses. She apologized that they weren't successful, but that the battle will go on. She echoed what Liz Kaufman said as far as contacting elected officials, and letting them know that Oregon dollars should stay in Oregon, and not cross the river to Washington if they don't have to. Oregon marijuana consumers should be helping Oregon schools and social services via marijuana taxes.
All in all, this was hands down one of the best events I've ever attended, especially for Oregon. Everyone at the event was so nice, and so passionate about the growing marijuana industry. It was truly inspiring. Leah Maurer and Sara Batterby are doing an outstanding job. I can't wait to attend their next event. If you want to learn more about Women Grow, and keep up to date on what they are doing, it's very easy to stay in the loop. Text WGPDX to 420420 and you can sign up for text alerts. I did, and you should too! I tip my hat to Women Grow for the amazing things they are doing, especially the Portland Chapter. Keep up the good work ladies!