“Be Prepared to Pivot” with Len Giancola & Laura Geftman

Be Prepared to Pivot- Nothing seems to go too smoothly in this industry. Whether you’re banking on a dispensary license or your edible has been banned, you’ll need to figure out how to pivot and keep on. As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure […]

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Be Prepared to Pivot- Nothing seems to go too smoothly in this industry. Whether you’re banking on a dispensary license or your edible has been banned, you’ll need to figure out how to pivot and keep on.

As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Geftman, LCSW. Laura Geftman is a Licensed Clinical Social Work and the Founder of The Calm, Cool & Collected. After working for 10+ years in the addiction/recovery industry, Laura became more interested in discovering the benefits of cannabis than watching more people die from opioid addiction. Laura created The Calm, Cool & Collected to help educate about the safe and ethical use of cannabis to treat mental health conditions.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?

Six years ago, I moved to Los Angeles for a job that fell through after three months. At that point, I had a decade of experience in addiction therapy and handling marketing for a treatment center. So with some time on my hands, I started re-thinking my options and reconnecting with old friends. A college friend said, “I know you’re gonna say ‘no’ but I need you to do some research.” When she pitched me a job opportunity with the word “cannabis,” I predictably gave her a quick, “no.”

Later that week, I got curious, and quickly found myself doing the research she suggested. Doing the research showed me just how little I knew about cannabis and how useful and effective it can be for various illnesses. Since then, I have worked with various start-ups in a variety of capacities including as a cannabis coach, business consultant, and a marketing strategist.

About a year ago, I attended a conference that changed everything for me. It opened my eyes to the need for education and support of cannabis use for mental health treatment. My research project turned into something more than just a curiosity. It became The Calm, Cool & Collected, a resource educating people about the safe and ethical use of cannabis for mental health conditions. While many mental health professionals are concerned about “lack of research,” there are many millions of people who actively pursue cannabis in the hope of managing their mental health. I want to help them. Through the site, I am able to provide those people with resources so they might make more informed choices for their mental health treatment.

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?

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, it’s a common occurrence to have people (not clients) overshare personal information. That hasn’t changed since I began providing cannabis informed therapy. Now friends and strangers alike ask me about cannabis improving their sex lives. When people try to elicit guidance from a stranger, I see that as a sign that there’s both a lack and a need for support. I’m often told people struggle to find well-informed mental health professionals with whom they can have honest conversations about cannabis.

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?

Despite having plenty of experience in similar roles, my career involved other industries. So when I first started in cannabis, I gave a lot of work away for free in hopes it would result in paid employment. It was very frustrating and disappointing, but in retrospect it makes me laugh. It was my real life “lemons into limonene dominant strain cannabis” experience.

Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?

Before moving to Los Angeles, I worked in Austin, Texas where I was schooled in the southern way to front-stab. Southerner use the phrase “bless your heart,” occasionally to express sympathy, but more commonly to express how pathetic they actually think something is.

When I returned to Austin with a career in the cannabis industry, my former colleagues responded with, “Oh no honey, bless your heart.” Last month, those same former colleagues asked me to present on cannabis at an upcoming conference for Texas addiction professionals.

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 have three incredible girlfriends to whom I owe some much. One put me up in Los Angeles when I first started exploring my career in the cannabis industry. One, who would says she “isn’t allowed to give legal advice,” but helps orient me in important directions. And one who advises about estimating and managing budgets. Each have contributed their time and expertise to helping me, and have always supported and encouraged me. I will be forever indebted and eternally grateful for their support.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m working to create a resource to educate mental health professionals about cannabis. Interestingly, 27 of 33 states that offer medical cannabis programs also include certain mental diagnoses as qualifying conditions. Those conditions include addiction, autism, depression, PTSD, anorexia, and more. Despite the availability of cannabis for treatment of these issues, there are practically no educational resources for mental health professionals to know the right courses of treatment.

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?

Great question! It’s important to understand that the cannabis industry is still growing and changing. It hasn’t matured like other industries and it doesn’t yet have a “standard” culture. I believe there is a lot of room for all kinds of people to get involved in the industry. Here are a few things that I believe individuals can do to ensure more gender parity:

Individuals can support gender parity by:

1. Check your privilege Not all struggles are the same. Neither are the privileges. Acknowledge your unique advantages and know that not everyone else enjoys them, too.

2. Listen Without listening there can be no understanding. By listening we come to understand more about experiences that are different than our own. Gaining others perspective allows us to recognize and fight injustice.

3. Utilize teaching moments Don’t keep silent with you hear chauvinist or racism comments. Listen to what hey are communicating. Reflect back to them what you believe they are trying to communicate. Explain how their words can be misconstrued or hurt. Make suggestions as to how they should communicate their concern in the future.

Companies can support gender parity by:

1. Demand equal pay for equal work Request an equal pay audit and mobile accordingly to ensure equality in the workplace.

2. Hire diversity After all it’s been discovered that the more diverse the workforce, the better the company’s performance.

3. Uphold a zero tolerance sexual harassment and racism policies Employees need to feel safe in their work environment. Provide anti-bias training for all employees (yes, the C-level folks, too) to stop bullying, micro aggressions, unconscious biases, and unfair assumptions from tainting your work environment.

Society can support gender parity by:

1. All lives matter Gender parity isn’t just about women and girls. Gender stereotypes impact all of us no matter how you identify your gender. Only by accepting our differences can we truly embrace all our strengths and create an enabling environment for an equitable society.

2. Take Action Call your representatives. Fund women and minority owned businesses. Mentor youth. Attend rallies. Organize demonstrations. Volunteer. Donate to non-profits. Vote. Get involved.

3. Embrace Change Set goals. Learn new skills. Be flexible. Manage your response. Use affirmations. Keep hope alive.

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. Mo’ Money- no matter how much you thought was going to be enough- it’s not. Double it. Even triple it. If you don’t have that to spend, get out or change your plan before you spend anything.

2. No Solopreneurship- you can’t do this all alone. This industry is quickly leaving the little fishes behind. Find your people and work together!

3. Be Prepared to Pivot- Nothing seems to go too smoothly in this industry. Whether you’re banking on a dispensary license or your edible has been banned, you’ll need to figure out how to pivot and keep on.

4. Smarketing- I’ve seen too many people create products and not be able to move them or afford to market them to move them. Advertising restrictions- both on traditional and digital mediums- are real and make selling very hard and costly. If you’re not smart about marketing, then good luck.

5. Do Your Research- There’s no magic but there’s lots of smoke and mirrors in this industry.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?

  1. innovation
  2. health
  3. healing

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. uneducated consumerism
  2. unregulated (CBD) production
  3. contamination of 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 support legalization, but I support a methodical roll-out of legalization. We cannot jus trip the bandaid and expect no changes. Cannabis needs to be de-scheduled (as a controlled substance) so that medical professionals can study it properly and without fear of arrest. With that, cannabis products must be uniformly tested and regulated. Education should be offered to professionals and consumers alike. Cannabis isn’t magic. There are risks, contraindications, and drug interactions that all professionals and consumers need to know.

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?

The discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) has been called “the most important physiologic system in establishing and maintaining human health.” Cannabis interacts with body through the ECS helping the body to achieve homeostasis or balance, and is continually proving to have more and more medicinal uses.

Cigarettes may have a little medicinal value as they contain 1000s of chemical compounds. Of those compounds, nicotine maybe the only one with some medicinal value. It’s being studied for potential benefits for both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Cannabis and tobacco are very different substances that have profoundly different effects on the body and mind. Just because you can smoke both cigarettes and cannabis doesn’t mean the two substances should be treated similarly.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I love the saying- “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” I’ve worked to surround myself by smart people who challenge, affirm, question, and complete everything about my business. I’m grateful for new ideas and other perspectives, and am always happy to be surround by people who offer their expertise.

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. 🙂

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 130 of people die every day in the United States due to an opioid overdose. It happens all too often that after supporting an addicted client’s cessation from a prescription medication, their doctor puts them right back on another opioid regimen. The addiction cycle is beating out the treatment cycle. We have to be able to coordinate the care of patients better than we are today. The continuum of care involves so many types of professionals and various treatments, test, and prescriptions. There has to be a better way for all professionals to coordinate care.

Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!

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