Be prepared with more science, data and facts from respected sources. Nay-sayers like to use the phrase “there isn’t enough research” any chance they get. So find, site and even conduct the research!
Asa part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sharon Christie, Founder & CEO of Cannafloria Essentials
Through her deep expertise as a pharmacist, chemist, botanist and aromatherapist, Sharon Christie has established herself as a pioneer in her field, devoted to natural wellness and beauty. Sharon’s wellness empire began in 1985 when she founded Aromafloria, the women-owned leader in natural and eco-friendly personal care and aromatherapy products. Her expertise in sensory sciences paired with her passion for the benefits of Cannabis Terpenes led to the launch of Cannafloria Essentials, the game-changing body care and scent therapy line centered on the application of THT™ or Thera-Hemp Terpenes ™.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
My early work as an Herbalist included studies of various psychotropics, so I was not new to the benefits of Cannabis for relieving stress and inflammation. I was inspired by a mission to ease my husband’s anxiety and stress resulting from the lung disease pulmonary fibrosis. Wanting to avoid pharmaceutical intervention, I started exploring Cannabis with all its possible benefits — and there are many. But one problem became clear — there was no clean, tested herbal flower product to be found to make medicine. So, delivery became a focal point of my research and I started extracting and testing the Terpenes of Cannabis via inhalation to clear the pathways (alpha pinene), reduce anxiety (linalool), relieve pain (myrcene) and support healthy sleep (humulene). These, along with the phytocannabinoids other than THC, helped in calming the nerves and the breathing rate, thereby resulting in reduced anxiety.
This is what led to the “Thera Hemp Terpenes” THT™ mood modulating blends. Like cannabinoids, terpenes bind to receptors in the brain and give rise to various effects. Today, we are a team of caregivers, scientists, researchers, educators and professionals with a common mission: unlocking the power of Cannabis to improve people’s lives. Natural high-quality solutions you can trust from a company with a 30-year legacy of wellness and transparency.
Cannafloria all-natural whole plant ingredients meet our strictest scientific standards for GreenGredients™.
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?
When you receive letters and phone calls on how you have improved a person’s quality of life, there is not much more to say. This is why we get up in the morning with PURPOSE!
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?
It is more my “funniest moment” or what I refer to as my “Da” Moment. I had moved to NYC in the 70’s from California and I needed to make ends meet. My career was in the Essential Oil, Fragrance and Flavor industry where I was a Natural Formulation Chemist and barely making enough money to pay the rent. So, what does any girl do in a situation like that — I took to the street corner, hold on…dirty mind…no I took to the street corner to sell my essential oils.
What was pretty impressive was all the people I met and their interest in getting a little relief with just one whiff. My best seller was patchouli and I wondered why…the Da moment… of course, if you were ever in Haight Ashbury, that is all you smelled- it was to cover up the pot smell.
That little street corner business went on to create a distribution outlet for immigrants and refugees from Africa to set up, all over Ney York City, tables with essential oils, incense and other novelty items. I supplied the essential oils and fragrances.
What did I learn? That distribution is key for volume opportunities! I also learned that one helping hand helps another. There is value in natural health, especially for everyday people looking to reduce stress and boost immunity.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
Yes, Shock and Awe!!! “Oh my god… we cannot have any direct contact because we could be raided or locked up.” The prohibition attitude was thick in the air and I was the only one who understood the paradigm shift that this little female plant was about to unleash into the wellness world.
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 was raised by a strong female who taught me to never give up, that defeat is today but tomorrow brings another chance! Make the best of it! So, I keep trying…
There are different people at different chapters on the journey that inspire us…Margaret Mead- I had the good fortune to live in New York on West 76th street and CPW — one block from the Natural History Museum where she appeared and lectured frequently. Her studies of Indigenous peoples were not only fascinating, but rewarding to the very core of my beliefs. That is why it is important to protect the past from the future. We are all different and travel on our journeys at different speeds. We should feel privileged to walk upon this Earth and share our experiences we call culture. We have all learned from observation and should never let it go- it is who we are.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.— Margaret Mead
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes- a non-combustible means of delivering Cannabis.
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.The ERA, Equal Rights Amendment is still not part of our Constitution and hangs unratified since 1972. This important amendment seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women, finally guaranteeing equal legal rights for all women in this country. More awareness should be made so this is not marginalized or forgotten. We should finish the business at hand.
2. Companies should place more women on their Boards. One area where we can reduce the cost of gender inequality is by expanding access to finance. We also need to support one another and mentor other women from a position of power. Men have been advancing other men in business for centuries. Sometimes, women can become competitive because they know that there’s traditionally only a few spaces for women in a company. But we need to reset this mindful and work to build each other up.
3. Women should use their voices. We have the unique ability to lead with kindness, love, respect. Great women in history have shown these characteristics for centuries — taking the motherly, moral approach to protect less fortunate people and the Earth. What better realm to lead than natural, plant-therapeutics that empower the body to heal? Women shouldn’t be afraid to voice their values and ideologies — we can use public forums and social media as powerful tools to spread the female perspective of equality, diversity, love and acceptance. This open-door method of leading is far more productive than a closed-door, hierarchy approach.
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.
- Do not trust what you hear. Question who you hear it from. There’s plenty of misinformation in this industry, so use your intuition and do your research before getting involved in any projects.
- This is a non- regulated market with changing rules every day. Be aware and minimize risk.
- Be prepared with more science, data and facts from respected sources. Cannabis nay-sayers like to use the phrase “there isn’t enough research” any chance they get. So find, site and even conduct the research!
- It takes more money than you ever thought it would and then more!
- Now that you have your product — where do you sell it and who is going to buy it? You need a sales strategy to cut through the clutter. This is a flooded market with tons of competitors, so what’s going to set you apart from the rest?
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
- Sense of community
- Creativity that abounds
- A little female herb that has the power to shift how we care for ourselves in the future.
- To see people once incarcerated from previous cannabis convictions given freedom!
- This industry is incredibly progressive. The industry has made conscious efforts to support the female leaders in the space and eliminate the sexually suggestive forms of advertising and sexist hiring practices that used to be prevalent in the industry.
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?
- Allow banks to legally accept deposits from Hemp CBD and cannabis merchants. The Federal Government collects the taxes due, so they get their share upfront in cash…but provide no other alternatives for proper accounting. Since cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, and banks are federally insured, most financial institutions will not service cannabis businesses. In states where medical or recreational marijuana is legal, dispensary owners, manufacturers, and anybody who “touches the plant,” continue to face a host of operational hurdles, including a reluctance by banks to do business with them. Aside from a huge inconvenience and the need to find creative ways to manage financial flow, payroll logistics, and payment of taxes, this also poses the tremendous personal safety risk of operating a lucrative business in cash. This lack of access to traditional banking is certainly inhibiting industry growth. On the extreme end of the spectrum, if banking services are not soon extended to the legal cannabis industry, many companies are likely to be forced out of business.
- Education to parents, teachers and minors. We need to end the stigma surrounding cannabis and teach people how and why to use it. It’s okay to highlight the drawbacks too — the purpose is to improve the wellbeing of U.S. citizens, so let’s remain honest about how cannabis fits into society as a resourceful herb. There is still a prohibition attitude of fear that prevails- similar to the Victorian views on sex until now with the Sexual Wellness (thanks to Cannabis) opening up the conversations about sensuality, it’s okay to feel good and be in the moment. Cannabis helps us feel good in our emotions and mood. Mood determines our wellness.
- My greatest concern is that Big Pharma, tobacco and alcohol will take over and apply the same principles to control the business and diminish the community base that is being established now. We are bringing real, natural medicine to the people in the most natural means to offer relief and comfort from the stresses of modern-day society. We are learning life lessons from this plant to help heal the planet and ourselves. We are at the forefront of a movement we have never witnessed in our lifetime and it can’t be harnessed, it needs to flourish. This plant is a gift from Mother Nature to help us heal and heal the planet.
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?
Well, this is a tricky slope. One needs to be careful of what she wishes for- the probability for unintended consequences for many is high.
I feel “we the people” doing the right thing to self-regulate and following standards for the CPG business will allow small business to flourish and make a difference. Once regulated, there will be confusion because the interpretation of the law will be left to plaintiff attorneys who will seize the day to do what they do best. This could send shock and awe through an already fragile industry that has grown exponentially with a lot of fast movers.
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?
No, absolutely not! Cannabis should be viewed as a therapeutic tool, like many other plant-based resources on the market.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have a plaque in my office that my assistant made for me that says “there is no accounting for human behavior.”
There will always be egotistical, self-centered people in this world. They lack mindfulness and self-awareness — which gives them the ability to negatively impact those around them, sometimes without even noticing.
I look at it this way — why should I lose my self-esteem over someone I have no control over and give them the power to take from me…so I just say “there is no accounting for human behavior.” It really neutralizes the moment without spiking our cortisol levels. Let them do them, and I’ll do me.
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. 🙂
I inspired a green movement by pushing boundaries with the supply chain. We make healthier choices with the catalysts and source materials we use to make our ingredients. This has given me great pleasure to see it finally coming into its own and embraced by the consumer, who wants to do more on her part to choose less-toxic, more sustainable products. The consumer demands and the retailers and MFG have to listen and respond in kind or they leave us.
Today I am heartbroken over the many women suffering from BII- Breast Implant Illness. Breast Cancer is no stranger to men as well, and our transgender community. Women and men of all ages have become victims of our healthcare system because it is not recognized as a disease state and therefore insurance does not pay for the recovery. This is just one example of how healthcare doesn’t care for the people.
With power and influence, I would humanize healthcare and put the CARE back into the system. And I like to think that’s exactly what we’re doing with hemp and cannabis.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!