The utilization of slang words for cannabis needs to stop. This makes it difficult for society to remove the outdated, incorrect information about the plant attached to negative stigmas. This also slows down the process of legalization and acceptance by larger organizations that play a critical role in the advancement of cannabis as a therapeutic.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christina DiArcangelo
Christina DiArcangelo, CEO and Founder of Affinity Bio Partners, CEO, Board President of Affinity Patient Advocacy, CEO, the Christina DiArcangelo brand. CEO and Co-Founder of AI Health Outcomes, CannaBot™ and DRBot™, has forged a world-class reputation in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry over the past 22 years. Her engagements have led to numerous industry awards, keynote speaking engagements, multitude of global clinical trials as well as working on several drugs that have received FDA approval. Throughout the course of Christina’s career, she has acted in various capacities for Global Clinical Research Organizations, Pharmaceutical Companies, Biotechnology Companies, Medical Cannabis Patients and Companies.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
I have been working globally in the pharmaceutical, medical device, and nutraceutical industries for 22 years. I have also worked on 25 approved FDA biologics and devices throughout my career. My cannabis industry journey started when I became interested in medical cannabis and CBD as a therapeutic treatment about four years ago. A Grower/Processor/Dispensary reached out to my non-profit, Affinity Patient Advocacy, to handle their research. They reached out to me because of a keynote speech I gave for Relay for Life about being a patient advocate for my father, Albert J DiArcangelo. Unfortunately, he passed away from liver, lung, and stomach cancers at age 62. After becoming his advocate, I decided to start Affinity Patient Advocacy in 2015, and here I am today.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I believe the most interesting story since I have been in the medical cannabis industry is the launching of our Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis patient research study. I developed a patient questionnaire with Compassionate Certification Centers and Dr. Bryan Doner, and deployed the questionnaire with the AI Bot, CannaBot. For the first time in the history of the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis program, this type of information was gathered. We also wrote a white paper as a result and have decimated this to help other countries and states that are looking to revise their programs or launch them.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I used to wear suits to every event that I attended when representing my companies due to my corporate background, so I assumed the same was required within cannabis. I learned quickly that I don’t need to wear a suit to every cannabis industry event I participate in. Since then, I loosened my attire when going to events.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
Most of my pharmaceutical colleagues thought that I was losing my mind by getting into medical cannabis and CBD clinical research based on the stigma associated with the industry. Interestingly, fast forward to today, most of these colleagues want to get into this space now.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I attribute my foundation and my career development skills to my Father. He was a blue collar, union man (President of the Steelworkers union and a Teamster) his entire life. I feel blessed to have received so many life and career lessons from him. He has impressed upon me to never give up, and in the medical cannabis industry, you can’t give up — ever!
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, Spectral Analytics TeleMonitoring. By launching this platform, for the first time in medical patient history, we’ll be helping patients be treated for their health issues by meeting them where they are with their illness, rather than just treating a patient based on their condition.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Despite great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry. According to this report in Entrepreneur, less than 25 percent of cannabis businesses are run by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender parity moving forward?
1) Individuals: Be more aware of reaching out to qualified women to be involved in initiatives that are important to you.
2) Companies: Look purposely to hire women for leadership roles within your organization.
3) Society: Host more female influencer events to inspire and empower women while creating awareness.
You are a “Cannabis Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the cannabis industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each.
1. Make sure you backdoor new people that you run into within the industry.
2. Learn acronyms’ and terminology.
3. Pre-establish your goal of the meeting or what you are trying to achieve.
4. Learn patients’ true needs.
5. Find mentors that are qualified in the industry.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
1. Ensuring that medical cannabis is a recognized therapeutic treatment by healthcare professionals, the FDA, and Government bodies worldwide.
2. Contributing to science back research for the benefit of patients.
3. Developing transdermal patches and customized nutraceutical products to truly help patients.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
1) The utilization of slang words for cannabis needs to stop. This makes it difficult for society to remove the outdated, incorrect information about the plant attached to negative stigmas. This also slows down the process of legalization and acceptance by larger organizations that play a critical role in the advancement of cannabis as a therapeutic.
2) We need to raise the bar from a professionalism standpoint
3)Stop making false claims regarding products
What are your thoughts about federal legalization of cannabis? If you could speak to your Senator, what would be your most persuasive argument regarding why they should or should not pursue federal legalization?
I am working on a federal bill with colleagues down at the hill. Allowing clinical research to occur with out securing a DEA license to move THC products for research purposes would make things a lot easier for us!
Today, cigarettes are legal, but they are heavily regulated, highly taxed, and they are somewhat socially marginalized. Would you like cannabis to have a similar status to cigarettes or different? Can you explain?
Cigarettes are not medicine. Medical cannabis and CBD should not be taxed.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.” Maya Angelou
The reason that so many people are successful beyond the mind’s comprehension is not necessarily that they’re exceptionally great at what they do. It is that they are passionate about it. It is that they want to do what they are doing so badly that they are willing to give up life’s little conveniences in order to do it.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Medical cannabis and CBD is a medical treatment for all! As a society, we need to continue digging deeper into the power of the plant and collecting more data to better help patients.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!