“Take your big picture and nail it down into smaller, actionable steps. Don’t bite off more than you can chew at once! It is particularly important to make sure you grow your company sustainably in this industry as it is ever expanding in so many ways at this point with rules and regulations that can change quickly.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Leah Maurer, the Editorial Lead and Co-Owner of The Weed Blog. Leah is a cannabis activist who lives in Portland, Oregon. She played an integral role as an outspoken mother for the Yes on Measure 91 campaign, which successfully legalized cannabis in Oregon in 2014. She is a cannabis journalist and creative marketing consultant in the cannabis industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”? How did you first get into this business or get interested in the business?
On March 9, 2009, my partner Travis Maurer and I experienced a horrific, para-military style home invasion in Columbia, MIssouri, for growing medical cannabis in our basement. That experience and the experiences that trickled out of that raid thrust me into cannabis law reform activism in ways that I didn’t think were possible, and opened my eyes to the multitude of social and criminal injustices that were intertwined in cannabis prohibition and the overall drug war in the U.S. Essentially as refugees from the law, we moved our family to Portland less than 3 months after the raid. After getting back on our feet and also watching 2 legalization measures fail in Oregon, we decided it was time for a new approach. We helped found New Approach Oregon, the organization that the Measure 91 campaign was drafted and run out of. I did public speaking on behalf of the campaign, and also founded a group called Moms for YES on Measure 91. After Measure 91 passed, I co-founded the Portland Women Grow chapter in May of 2015, creating the largest and fastest growing chapter the organization had ever seen. I then served as the Branding and Outreach Manager for Yerba Buena, one of the first licensed cannabis companies in the state of Oregon while simultaneously developing The Weed Blog. I now serve as the Editorial Lead at The Weed Blog and do some freelance writing and consulting as well, but consider every hat i wear in the cannabis industry to tie back to my cannabis activism.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The Weed Blog is the best online publication to give readers a one stop shop for cannabis news and information. We have everything from policy updates to growing tips to cannabis infused recipes on our site. The site has been going to since 2010, before any of the United States had recreational/adult-use cannabis legalization. The Weed Blog is a vehicle for the cannabis community to use as a means for building connections, education, and, hopefully, to eventually end cannabis prohibition.
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?
The Weed Blog serves as the cannabis authority for the Maven Coalition Network. The Maven is the only media platform of it’s kind, working to protect free speech and publication rights for independent publishers all over the world. We feel that this is the next step in the cannabis movement, to be able to link arms with mainstream publications in an effort to educate the public and lift the stigma that surrounds the cannabis plant due to decades of conjecture and propaganda that have been fed to us by the federal government. The Maven is doing amazing things for independent publishers and we are so grateful and proud to be part of their Coalition!
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We are hosting a Summer Science Series of events in partnership with the Sativa Science Club in Portland to offer the community a space for building relationships and receiving education about the science of the cannabis plant.
Additionally, we are launching a text campaign to get out the vote nationally for cannabis legalization. By texting VOTE to 420420, subscribers will receive cannabis legalization updates both nationally and in their state.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
1) It’s the only emerging industry either myself or my children will ever see in our lifetime!
2) There is so much potential for job creation and economic growth with this industry
3) It will allow activists to FINALLY be able to expose the truths about cannabis and the drug war that have been stifled for decades because of the propaganda and conjecture fed to us by the federal government
1) That people of color (who have largely bared the weight of the perverse social and criminal injustices of cannabis prohibition and the drug war) will not be given a more than fair chance at succeeding in this industry.
2) That big pharma will attempt to control cannabis and people who need it medicinally will not have access in the way one should have access to whole plant medicine.
3) That people will forget where it came from. It came from decades of hard work on the part of activists and countless arrests that have ruined peoples lives. All industry professionals should make certain they are educated about this and their fellow employees are as well, and should support efforts about expungement and criminal justice reform for cannabis arrests.
Can you share your top “5 things you need to know in order to succeed in the Cannabis industry”? Please share a story or example for each.
1) Be patient. We are in an emerging industry where regulations, standards and policies are constantly changing. If you aren’t passionate about the cannabis plant and willing to be patient while policies and standards roll out, this is probably not the right industry for you at this time.
2) Know when to to ask for help. This industry has birthed SO many amazing ancillary companies, use their knowledge and experience when you need to, and admit when you need! There are cannabis accountants, design firms, marketing firms, law firms, and the list goes on. Don’t try to do everything yourself until your team is big enough or you will burn yourself out trying. There is just too much to keep tabs on in this industry as it continues to emerge and expand right now.
3) Remember where this industry came from. This industry came from decades of drug war soldiers, countless activists, and an obscene amount of arrests before recreational/adult-use legalization became a thing. We would be remiss to not give the movement that brought us here some credit, and social and criminal justice should be a priority for every company that launches in the cannabis sector. .
4) Take your big picture and nail it down into smaller, actionable steps. Don’t bite off more than you can chew at once! It is particularly important to make sure you grow your company sustainably in this industry as it is ever expanding in so many ways at this point with rules and regulations that can change quickly.
5) Make sure to research and vet your investors. Again, with this being an emerging industry and there being no real industry standards in it yet, companies can get taken advantage of quickly by investors looking to try and make a quick dollar. Always seek legal advice when discussing business partnerships and investors, and make sure to do everything with contracts.
In our experience when people are passionate about what they do they are more successful. Where does you cannabis passion come from?
My passion comes from my drive to be the best mother I can be, and from my hope to prevent anyone from having to go through a raid like I did for growing a plant. I want the very best for my children, and that means cannabis legalization…everywhere. Cannabis legalization means getting cannabis off the street and allowing law enforcement resources to be freed up to arrest violent criminals, instead of responsible adults who have a little weed in their pocket. Cannabis legalization means regulating and testing cannabis, and checking ID for those who purchase it. Cannabis legalization means tax dollars for mental health services and schools. And, cannabis legalization means that no one will have to experience having 3 law enforcement agencies raid your house, have multiple guns held to your head, and have your civil liberties violated in a way that you never thought was possible with having no priors on your record and no evidence of violence in your home.
Where do you see your business going in the next 5 years? Where do you see the cannabis industry going in the next 5 years?
I think it is clear by public polling and recent elections/ballot initiatives that the cannabis industry is only going one way: forward. When we look at where things were 5 years ago in terms of public opinion and policy, the difference is almost like night and day. In the next 5 years, things could easily move twice as fast…and, really, the sky’s the limit for this emerging industry!
The Weed Blog is on pace to become one of the premiere B2C and B2C marketplaces in this industry. We will continue to develop community around cannabis law reform and hope to make the biggest impact possible now and in the future.
Are you able to identify any rising stars at your company or in your industry that people need to keep an eye on?
Not an individual, but an organization to keep an eye on is Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).
They continue to be a worldwide leader in drug policy reform, and have been huge in the cannabis movement. With the continued emergence of the cannabis industry, drug law reform organizations, like DPA, can now cause market with businesses. They have helped by changing laws and being steadfast donors for legalization campaigns, and it is extremely important that cannabis companies give back to their efforts.
What growth sectors should most people be paying attention to that they might not be currently?
In cannabis? Media, Science, and Technology!
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I would LOVE to meet Michelle Alexander! She has written and made so many powerful statements about the social and criminal injustices that are intertwined in the drug war and I admire and respect her so much as an individual and an activist!
MIchelle Obama would be a very close second 🙂
Originally published at medium.com