Civilized’s new podcast 'Cannabis & Main' offers deep but digestible dives into today's most pressing issues. In each 20-minute episode, host Ricardo Baca - the Founder and former Editor of 'The Cannabist' and one of Fortune magazine's 7 Most Powerful People in America's Marijuana Industry - chats with trusted leaders of science, industry and government.
On the latest episode, Baca discusses cannabis and feminism with guest April Pride - Founder and CCO of the cannabis lifestyle brand Van der Pop. Check out the full podcast below or download it for free through iTunes, Spotify or Stitcher.
Transcript: CANNABIS & MAIN Episode 103 “Cannabis & Feminism”
Ricardo Baca: My guest today is April Pride, founder and chief creative officer for Van der Pop, a women-centric cannabis lifestyle brand. April, thanks for joining us on 'Cannabis & Main.'
April Pride: Thank you so much for having me Ricardo, I appreciate it.
Ricardo Baca: We're here to discuss cannabis, and feminism. Just yesterday I was flying out of Toronto and I was wearing a shirt that I bought from Diana Kane, a cool little fashion designer out of Brooklyn. She did this project with Samantha Bee, who hosts a weekly show called 'Full Frontal' on TBS, and it says “FEMINIST” on the front. That's all it says. I posted a picture of me in that shirt and I wrote: “Well, that's certainly a complicated shirt.”
I was waiting for my Thai food earlier, and the male Toronto shop owner in his fifties was attempting small talk. “How's that?” I asked him. He proceeded to wonder aloud how often someone protests the idea that I'm a feminist, and I told him it doesn't happen. He was dumbfounded. “Really?” I asked him. What was so hard to believe? “Well, you don't typically have men coming out as feminists, do you?” And I said, “You do where I come from, increasingly so.” He asked where I was from, and when I told him Colorado, he said, “Well good for you guys, I guess?” We talked some more. He meant well. But I told him about being raised by a strong, intelligent single mom. He wished me a good day, and I reciprocated the good will. But it got me thinking, fellas: Do you support women's rights, and equity among genders? Because if you do, maybe you want to tell your friends and family, and followers that you're a feminist? Because that's what being a feminist means, and maybe we can help normalize feminism among men, because it's the right way to be.
[To April] What do you think about this random Instagram that I just happened to post less than twenty-four hours ago?
April Pride: I have two sons, I have eight and eleven year-old boys. And I often wonder why did I not see myself as a feminist earlier in my life. I'm in my forties, my early forties, and I think because I too was raised by a strong single mom, I didn't realize that women were having any problems, right? She was getting the job done morning to night.
Ricardo Baca: Right.
April Pride: So yeah, I just really had a strong vision of what all women are like, and I think my kids see the same thing. It plays out differently, but I think it's important for them to know that whatever I choose to do, it's something that I'm going to give a lot of. They've seen that, yeah.
Ricardo Baca: Well, I think it's something about our age, too. I'm forty-one, so I'm also in my young forties, and it's fair to say that feminism had a bad rep in its early days, right? Like it was the butt of jokes, it was completely misconstrued to mean something that it never really meant.
April Pride: Right.
Ricardo Baca: Or, maybe only meant in certain radical circles. But I mean this concept of gender equality might have seemed radical in the seventies when we were born, even though it shouldn't have. But God, it's 2018, and why are more people not getting on board, and supporting this vocally, full throatily, whole heartily?
April Pride: Gloria Steinem did a book tour of her most recent book a couple of years ago, and that's where I was really alerted to how feminism plays a role in my fortunate circumstances. As a woman of the twenty-first century, and so you start to realize that it's not just because someone did something in the sixties, right? People jumped on this, and became a part of it along the way in very small ways. For the most part, right?
Ricardo Baca: Right.
April Pride: And then some pretty grand ways... I realized it's just a contribution. So, she really, I think, spoke to the fact that we all need to realize what our contribution is going to be, and support women as much as possible. So that - the timing - was an interesting one.
Ricardo Baca: Let's take this up to ten thousand feet: Here we are in the cannabis industry in 2018. We do not have any decent data telling us what the women-owned, women-managed business situation looks like in this industry specifically. We have an idea of what it is because that's a question that Marijuana Business Daily has been asking every year as a part of their fact book, and that's really valuable. I don't know how statistically significant it is, and I know from being a journalist in Colorado that this is not information you can get from the marijuana enforcement division, or the Department of Revenue, or the Department of Regulatory Agencies. They do not keep track of that, and so it's been really difficult to kind of put a finger on this.
We can also speak to the intentions of the cannabis industry, because I think a lot of these entrepreneurs hoped to create something different, and that was certainly a familiar narrative between 2013 and now — can we create a more inclusive business structure that elevates women? That promotes women. That encourages women to own and start businesses. And I guess if we are relying on that MJ Biz data to kind of tie a bow on this before diving into the conversation as a whole. That MJ Biz data shows that the women owned businesses, women managed business are going down year, over year, over year. And now the number in cannabis more closely resembles that of more traditional industries. In terms of, of course more men own these businesses, run these businesses by a significant, kind of devastating margin.
So, I mean I guess just, why don't we start there? I mean do you think that cannabis still can become a different kind of industry? Or is it inevitable that cannabis is like any other industry?
April Pride: I feel like I have unique insight into this question as an American who sold her company to a Canadian company early last year. What I found was that Canada, being med legal since 2001, has such a mature industry that is protected by the government regulations, right? Financially you can go into that industry as an individual and feel like your accounts won't get seized. There's really no stigma - once Health Canada is behind it, there's lots, and lots of money there - so it has attracted more, and more white males, because it's a legitimate form of business, right? It can replace accounting.
Ricardo Baca: Sure.
April Pride: Or you can be an accountant in this industry. So that was, we Van Der Pop had “Women in Weed,” which was a one-day conference in November, and that's when I was first alerted to this because a woman stood up who works at a large licensed producer, a large LP, and said, “There aren't women in the US.” All of the press reports to the fact that there are more women in executive positions than in any other industry. And that was the report that you're referring to that now says something different. That the trend is downward. But that's not the climate, that's not the landscape here in Canada.
So, I started making it a point when I'm traveling and meeting people throughout Canada to figure out exactly what the executive teams look like. And, basically, here in Canada it looks a lot like the tech industry…
Ricardo Baca: Lots of white dudes,
April Pride: Yeah, and the US it will be exactly the same if we as women in the industry don't make it a point to do everything we can to work together. One of the reasons Van der Pop was able to reach a wider audience more quickly was because a lot of female brands banded together, and collaborated - whether it was an event, or a product, or an idea that we wanted to make sure other people knew about and we used our collective audiences to help one another out, and that really did work. So, I think that I encourage other females in the business ... Everyone knows these numbers: 2 percent of all VC capital goes to female led companies. Hence, I sold my company. Those numbers aren't good, and it was hard to raise capital, and it was in the cannabis space, right? And then Trump got elected…
Ricardo Baca: Good luck with that.
April Pride: Yeah, it was kind of a hard time. Things ended well, thank goodness. But that's only because I had the support of a lot of other females along the way. Women who have been mentors, and continue to be. To (other) women, I can pass down things I've learned to save them all of the trouble. That's how I feel women are really going to be able to change things in this industry. Also, there are no rules in terms of what your workday, or your workplace, looks like. And I would hope that women understand the needs of other women, and going into an office everyday just doesn't make sense, right? It's a lot of money to pay for child care, it's a lot of hassle to get your kid out of the door by a certain time some mornings, or if you're a new mom.
I think we have an opportunity to create a new workplace in this industry. So, there are some exciting things that I think would make this industry a lot more attractive to women in the future.
Ricardo Baca: You're based in Seattle, and you've been in cannabis for how long?
April Pride: I deposited the first capital for Van der Pop in August, 2015.
Ricardo Baca: Oh, okay. Great, so that's a little bit more than a year after Washington state implemented legal recreational sales.
April Pride: That's right, in 2014. And I was never a medical card carrying patient.
Ricardo Baca: Okay, and now there's no medical system in Washington state, is that right?
April Pride: Yeah, that's correct, and that's unfortunate.
Ricardo Baca: Such a weird system… No home grow…
April Pride: Keep Washington weird, stay away. No, yeah I think in Washington they like to think that we have a system that would be adopted by the federal government, is what they think. I have no idea why our regulations would be something to mimic…That's just not my area of expertise. I just want to be able to have delivery, because I know that there are women who would gladly use some of the products that I think would have a positive impact in their life, if they didn't have to go into a store. I mean plain and simple, right? Like, who wants to go into a pot shop if you're already uncertain about everything. It just doesn't necessarily feel very approachable for most women.
Ricardo Baca: Well, let's talk about that. Why not? Because I'm guessing there are some shops that do a better job of catering to their female clientele and making sure that they're comfortable and welcome. But inevitably there are others that don't…
April Pride: That's true. Yes, you are absolutely right. We have awesome stores that I have no hesitation in recommending women visit when they're in the greater Seattle area. I don't know much throughout the state. But I think it's the fear of running into your kids soccer coach. It's the fear of running into another mom. It doesn't matter that they too are also in this store, it's that you have been caught in this store. That attitude is not something that I have, obviously. So when I say that, and I share that with you, it is because it is something we have to remember. Van der Pop did a survey of 1500 North American women last fall. In the US, in adult use legal states, 65 percent of women feel like there is a stigma attached to their cannabis consumption. And in non-legal states, 69 percent of women feel like there's a stigma.
So there's a 4 percent difference whether it's legal or not on how they feel they are perceived as a cannabis consumer. The legalities of this don't really have anything to do with women's attitude around cannabis. It's judgment, it's stigma across the board. So, yeah, I think walking into a pot shop is a hard thing to ask somebody, to ask a woman, in particular. If they could have it delivered, it'd be great.
Ricardo Baca: I know, new consumers in general, but I could also see how it's a really specific concern for parents. For people who maybe grew up in a different kind of social environment where that might not be acceptable. I remember the early days of 2014 and those sales happening, and I remembered hearing stories, and I tried to write one on it, I just couldn't get anybody to comment on it. Older men and women didn't want to go into a recreational shop. So, they were paying couriers to go to the shop and bring them stuff, which I guess that's legal in the recreational market, because you can share. You can't do it on the medical market in Colorado.
But, it was kind of eye opening, because it's like oh, okay, it's legal. But still the stigma persists, and that was early 2014, and you're talking mid-2018. That stigma is still there, and that's something that I think dispensary owners should very much pay attention to, because maybe if the aesthetics, and the retail experience of the retail shop more mimicked that of something that women are more comfortable with…maybe if they did that, and spent some extra money making this that kind of an experience - an elevated retail experience - maybe that makes women more comfortable. You think?
April Pride: Yeah, so when I launched Van Der Pop in January 2016, the premise was that, if I could offer a woman a product that looked like what she would find in her closet, or on her vanity, then maybe this whole cannabis thing wouldn't seem so illicit, right? It wouldn't seem so foreign. It wouldn't seem so “oh my goodness, I just did that in college, in a dorm room, with my ex-boyfriend, in some terrible bong. No, I don't consume cannabis, that's not what I do.”
But, if you show her it though a different lens, maybe “Oh, I did hear it was good for sleep problems.” And so that's what our products, I felt like products could be a gateway to a different type of consumer being open to cannabis.
So, yes. I think the retail experience is everything. But, I think before I would invest in custom cabinetry to house all of this - and I do think that having the right presentation is absolutely important - I would have an on-staff educator. I know you're not allowed to give medical advice, but there's still questions that need to be asked. I would drive from half a state away to talk to somebody who could just answer these questions, because women's questions are plentiful.
Ricardo Baca: And maybe an environment in which they could ask those questions, that would allow a certain amount of privacy too, and you're not just standing at the counter with everybody else.
April Pride: That's right. Yeah, there is unfortunately this dispensary that closed in Washington on 4/20. But there was a private room, and sometimes they would have nurse practitioners, or nurses come in, and yeah, you could talk to them privately. That's a good idea.
Ricardo Baca: You're a woman in cannabis, what advice would you have for the men, and the women out there to make this a more equitable industry? A more fair industry for all that really does incorporates both sexes equally, and does not discriminate because it's 2018. Why are we discriminating still?
April Pride: Why do our households not sometimes need to have a second income but absolutely must have a second income, but we haven't changed the structure of the school day, or the school year, anything to accommodate these two working families, right?
Ricardo Baca: Good point.
April Pride: I think that my advice would be—maybe first ask your daughters, and your wife, right? If you are in a position as a decision maker in a cannabis company, and you are a male, talk to women you feel comfortable talking to, and ask them if they bring up points that you had yet to think of. I'm guessing that the women in your office will have even more to contribute that's specific to their workplace. So I would just start by putting your ego aside, and (stop) thinking that you have the answers that work for women. And ask women what they need. Not what they want, like we're not asking for pedicures at lunch on Fridays, just saying that would be awesome.
Ricardo Baca: That would be nice.
April Pride: But there are some simple, basic things that would just make the workday not as dehumanizing at times. Period, really, it's so true.
Ricardo Baca: How cool would it be if ten years down the road we could revisit this conversation, and actually see - not that this conversation made an impact, although I hope it does, certainly – but, more importantly, that this industry really did turn out a different way.
April Pride: I know.
Ricardo Baca: Even if it's not represented in that top line statistic. But a different way than most others, because it was a new industry, and that's incredibly rare. It really is once in a lifetime.
April Pride: Right. Yes, that is why I am here, because that is a pretty exciting place to be part of something that is figuring out what it is, every day. And changing. It's nice to be a part of that morphing, I guess, and help shape it too.
Ricardo Baca: It really is. April Pride - Founder and Chief Creative Officer for Van der Pop - thank you for stopping by 'Cannabis and Main.' It was so great having you.
April Pride: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.