Pubdate: Mon, 11 Jan 2016
Source: Nelson Star (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Black Press
Author: Will Johnson
Page: A5


The Kootenay chapter of Women Grow held an educational evening to
'connect, educate, and inspire the next generation of cannabis
industry leaders'

The Kootenay chapter of Women Grow, a cannabis advocacy organization
already established in Vancouver and Toronto, hosted a well-attended
educational evening at the Hume Hotel last week, aiming to "connect,
educate,inspire and empower the next generation of cannabis industry

"The war on drugs is ridiculous," keynote speaker Jim Leslie of the
Kootenays Medicine Tree dispensary in Nelson told the crowd, which
consisted of approximately 150 people. A ten-year veteran of Canada
Border Services, he was on the frontlines of drug enforcement and was
disillusioned by his time there.

He spent approximately 40 minutes going through his personal history
with the controversial plant, while detailing the development of his
dispensaries, first in Grand Forks and now in Nelson.

"To be clear: I started as a cannabis person and I never surrendered
it. I went undercover for ten years," said Leslie, who graduated with
a criminology degree. He eventually joined the organization LEAP - Law
Enforcement Against Prohibition.

"The commonality among all chapters of LEAP is that we want to see all
drugs regulated, all of them-that's the only way ahead. The war on
drugs in an uphill battle, so regulation is the only answer."

Leslie took some time to tip his hat to various cannabis activists who
came before him, including"Prince of Pot" Marc Emery and Philip
McMillan, founder of the Nelson Compassion Club, who received an
enthusiastic round of applause.

"Phil is an amazing man. He's where I got my medicine when I moved to
the area, and he's a learned,compassionate, caring man who's stuck to
his principles. He was the only dispensary in this town for years and

Leslie also mentioned the crew of Holy Smoke, a local dispensary that
has since gone out of business, calling them "heroes of mine."

The evening included talks by industry leaders Brynn Jones, Darrin
Fidler and Jennifer Peel. Jones spoke at length about his "adventure"
into the world of hemp working for J/W Mariceuticals and Okanagan
Green Hemp products.

"We need to be a shining beacon for change," he said. "I stand in
front of you as an activist, an entrepreneur and a father. Only events
like this will make our voices heard."

He noted that hemp can be used to make everything from paper,
batteries and clothing.

"Gandhi was clothed by hemp," he said.

Leslie acknowledged the purpose of the evening by praising the myriad
of women who have been leaders in the cannabis industry, including his
employees Kaleigh Herald and Tanya Shelestynski.

"I feel like I've been surrounded by a group of wonderful women who've
guided us through thisentire experience," he said, theorizing that
since the industry is based on "caring and nurturing" it'sa perfect
fit for women interested in health care.

Leslie's own passion is treating children, including toddler Kyla
Williams from Summerland. After administering CBD oil, the youngster
stopped having seizures, he said. He believes it was her example, and
the fact her grandfather is a decorated RCMP officer, that turned
public opinion in his favour in Grand Forks.

Distributed at the meeting was a memorandum from director of corporate
services Frances Long addressed to Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak - who was
invited to the event but didn't attend. Though the city will continue
to anticipate legalization, "until the time that those regulations
come into full force, members of the Nelson Police Department will
continue to view marijuana storefronts as illegal."

That being said, five dispensaries are currently operating in downtown
Nelson, with a sixth scheduled to open soon. The memo noted a recent
bust in Nanaimo occurred where it was alleged that dispensaries were
selling outside their stores and to youth, and warned the same thing
could happen here.

"Nelson Police Department will investigate such allegations and will
enforce when appropriate," itread.

Leslie had strong words about the recent busts.

"Is this really the time to bust them? Now? After nine years under
[Stephen] Harper? I dare say that's stupid."

Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall was in attendance, and said she
considered it part of her due diligence in preparing for the arrival
of marijuana legalization.

"This could be a massive economic opportunity for our region in the
next couple of years if Prime Minister Trudeau follows through with
his promise to legalize," she said.

"We need to be learning about this now. How are we going to roll out a
legalized marijuana system?We need to do it in partnership with people
already in the industry."

Mungall said formerly the government's attitude towards cannabis has
been "government knows best."

She also sees this as a potential opportunity to address child poverty
and the financial stress beingput on women by our current mental
health and affordable housing crises.

"What I think is very interesting is that the stats coming out of the
States show that close to 50 percent of business owners and CEOs in
this industry are women, and that's one of the highest ratios
anywhere. I think it's because it's a newer industry and doesn't have
that history of making women break through glass ceilings to access
positions of leadership."

She said "this is all very new."

"Time will tell us what the opportunities are, and if women are able
to capitalize on them, that's great. I hope to see gender equity in
all industries."

Mungall noted that one suggestion is to use the current liquor
distribution infrastructure to dispense marijuana.

"Is that a possibility? Is that right the right way to go? These are
questions we need to be researching, and need to be researching now. I
don't know if [Premier] Christy Clark has jumped on that

She said both the provincial and federal governments, as well as the
general populace, need to be prepared for a huge change when
legalization hits.

"We need to be learning about legalization and preparing for its
arrival right now," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Matt