An Evio Exclusive written by Lori Harito with files from Alexa Caruso
With Canada on its way to legalizing the use of marijuana, the cannabis business is prospering in popularity. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. But there are some companies that have been in the game for a while, preparing Canada for the eventual release of cannabis as a healing modality and removing the shame and stigma around cannabis use. One of those companies is 48North.
We jumped at the chance to chat with Alison Gordon, the CEO of 48North – a company committed to making quality cannabis products with the health and wellness of women in mind. She’s a woman of many talents, co-founding Rethink Breast Cancer, a charity organization focused on informing and supporting young women with the disease.
HI ALISON! TELL ME MORE ABOUT 48NORTH AND ITS VISION FOR CANNABIS IN CANADA?
48North is rethinking what it is to be a cannabis business. We’re a consumer packaged goods company focused on women’s health and wellness. That said, we grow our amazing unique cannabis and use it to make innovative products and brands for the market. Health and wellness also include relaxing and having fun with your friends!
HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY?
I’ve used cannabis for many years, but only looked at it as a medicine when I had a family member diagnosed with stage 4 cancer who started using medical cannabis to help with many of the challenging symptoms like anxiety, pain, lack of appetite etc. She was receiving medical cannabis through the old MMAR program in Canada and I saw the opportunity to help change the face of cannabis and destigmatize the plant. I understood early on that the tides were changing on prohibition and this would be a huge industry that I wanted to be part of.
WHY IS CANNABIS SUCH A MALE-DOMINATED INDUSTRY?
This is a complex question. Why are so many industries male dominated? The cannabis industry faces the same challenges as every industry, but I think it’s typically been a riskier endeavour to take a job in the weed business. Many women don’t have the luxury of taking as big career risks as men – they have additional responsibilities around the family and may not have the access to capital that men have. This industry also revolves around the banking and financial markets, and these are typically male-dominated industries.
YOU'RE ONE OF THE FEW FEMALES IN THAT INDUSTRY. DO YOU SEE THAT CHANGING QUICKLY AS MORE FEMALE-LED BUSINESSES GET IN THE GAME?
There are definitely a lot of female entrepreneurs in the cannabis space. That said, we still don’t see women at the executive level of large cannabis companies like 48North. I think I’m one of maybe two or three female CEOs of a licensed producer in Canada. I believe this will change as the industry grows and women get hired in many different positions. They will ultimately raise the ranks and rule the game!
HOW DO YOU THINK THE LEGALIZATION OF CANNABIS WILL CHANGE THE INDUSTRY IN CANADA?
It’s such an exciting time to be part of this massive change in global consciousness around cannabis. The industry will change a lot as regulation allows us to make more products and distribute through retail. It will still take time to truly end prohibition, but that challenge makes our industry scrappy and creative.
EVEN WITH LEGALIZATION, WHAT ARE SOME BARRIERS THAT EXIST WITH CANNABIS?
There are barriers to business that exist through the regulation of cannabis by the government. It won’t be a free for all, and I understand the need to regulate to ensure the product is safe and people are properly educated. Plus, it will take time for the stigma to truly diminish in North American culture. A lot of time and money was spent on spreading propaganda about cannabis and the “harms” it could do. Our team at 48North is really passionate about breaking down the misinformation and creating tools for people to guide them through positive cannabis experiences.
CAN WE EVER REALLY BREAK THROUGH THE MYTHS AND FEARS THAT PEOPLE HAVE WHEN IT INVOLVES CANNABIS?
Of course! It just takes time and personal experience for people to see that many of their long-held beliefs about cannabis aren’t based in reality. When you know people who have had their lives and health transformed by cannabis, it’s hard to argue with those facts.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE WAY TO USE CANNABIS (TOPICAL, EDIBLE ETC)?
Depends on what I’m using it for. I’m loving CBD creams these days for all sorts of aches and pains that go along with a demanding job and lots of travel for work!
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF CBD?
CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory and has been shown to help with stress and anxiety as well. I’m excited for there to be more clinical research on the cannabinoids in the plant so we can better understand how to use cannabis.
HOW CAN BUSINESSES BECOME SUCCESSFUL IN CANNABIS? FOR EXAMPLE, A STIGMA STILL EXISTS, SO PEOPLE/BUSINESSES CAN'T EVEN GET A MORTGAGE/LOAN IF IT'S ASSOCIATED WITH CANNABIS. HAVE YOU EVER EXPERIENCED THAT?
I work in the regulated industry in Canada, so I don’t face many of these challenges. That said, when I first started in 2013, I was worried about my career prospects if it didn’t work out in the cannabis space. I didn’t know how “weed” as my last job would be perceived outside the industry. Luckily, it’s been a great journey and I’m now seen as a veteran in the space.
HOW DID YOUR WORK WITH RETHINK BREAST CANCER POSITION YOU FOR THIS ROLE WITH 48NORTH?
Co-founding Rethink Breast Cancer taught me everything I know about everything: Business, raising money, managing people, marketing, branding. My partner, MJ Decoteau, and I started to Rethink without any formal business or marketing training. We did everything by instinct and I learned to trust my gut. Working with patients, physicians and government at Rethink has helped my understanding of the medical cannabis market and gave me a unique perspective on how to effect change.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE OUR COMMUNITY TO KNOW ABOUT YOU/CANNABIS/48NORTH?
My team and I are committed to working with women in the industry as people who have worked in women’s health for many years. We love that cannabis experiences can be spiritual, healthy, creative and make you laugh really hard. It’s not just about creating cannabis 2.0 or “stylish” cannabis products. 48North is an inclusive company looking to start a women’s health revolution!