A new cannabis film documentary entitled Lady Buds, releasing this weekend, explores the lives and challenges of female business owners.
The cannabis industry has heavily benefitted from niche documentaries, which present a professional way to educate viewers about the stigma of cannabis, its history on the War on Drugs or its effectiveness as a medicine. Films such as WEED (2013), featuring CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta, who opened up the conversation about medical cannabis to the nation. Weed the People (2018) explores the effectiveness of medical cannabis for children. Grass is Greener (2019) examines the history of music and its depiction of the War on Drugs.
Now it’s time to enjoy a new cinematic adventure in the form of Lady Buds—a unique perspective about female cannabis business owners from all walks of life.
Lady Buds recounts the lives and businesses of a diverse cast of individuals in Northern California, varying in race, age and sexual orientation. Seven women, who represent six cannabis businesses, are featured in Lady Buds: Sue Taylor, Chiah Rodriques, Felicia Carbajal, Karyn Wagner and The Bud Sisters (Pearl Moon and Dr. Joyce Centofanti). From cultivation to dispensary ownership and topical creation, these women all faced numerous challenges during the 2017-2019 window when the documentary was filmed. Lady Buds presents an intimate look at the lives of each subject, but also challenges the stereotypes both of “stoners” in general, as well as those of women in the industry.
Check out this exclusive clip from the film, featuring Karyn Wagner who shares an experience that her business ran into shortly after legalization in California went live. Enjoy this sneak peek!
High Times conducted an exclusive interview with Director, Producer and Writer Chris J. Russo in the High Times’November Issue, aka the Women’s Issue, where she offered an inside look at her film and what kind of experience it presents to audiences. According to Russo, Lady Buds is the first of its kind—and it all began with a statistic about women in the industry that stuck with her. A few key studies have produced some shocking data about women in the industry, or lack thereof.
Back in 2015, according to a study conducted by Marijuana Business Daily (MBD), 36 percent of women held executive roles in the industry. By 2017, that percentage dropped by 26.9 percent, and then increased back up to 36.8 percent by 2019. MBD’s 2021 report entitled “Women & Minorities in the Cannabis Industry” shows a continued decline both in women, as well as people of color.
Lady Buds illuminates the issues that women face in this industry, but also highlights the challenges of all small cannabis businesses fighting to compete with larger cannabis corporations. “This film is kind of nothing like you’ve ever seen before because there hasn’t ever really been a film that’s showed such a wide range of areas that’s just like seeing it through a female lens,” Russo told High Times. “In my film, you explore the challenges of the entire supply chain with the women who are directly engaged in it. I like to make films that I want to see, so I want see more women in the positions of power in roles that are very positive.”
If you live near Los Angeles or San Francisco, check out the following live theatrical events:
Hip-hop legend and fashion icon Lil’ Kim is the latest celebrity to enter the cannabis fray. Partnering with California pot brand superbad inc. and tech platform CampNova, the Brooklyn native joins the marketplace and a growing list of celebrity brands aiming to stake their claim in the booming cannabis game.
In addition to personal market success, Lil’ Kim and her business partners hope to inspire more Black and female entrepreneurs to join the industry as business leaders.
She spoke with High Times at the 2021 MJBizCon in Las Vegas, where all involved parties made the media rounds on its final day. Joined by superbad CEO Carlos Dew, Lil’ Kim said that the partnership comes after a lengthy but necessary process that involved market watching and a good deal of R&D from the Queen Bee.
“We’d go back and forth throughout the years,” reported Dew, adding that they decided now was the time to move forward, with legislation and market developments trending upward.
Lil’ Kim, a 2017 headliner at the High Times Canada Cannabis Cup, agreed with Dew. The self-described hustler added that pot had always been a market she wanted to enter. She stated that other brands had approached her over the years, but she never felt ready to make a move on any opportunity.
“I’ve been doing my homework and research on it,” said the artist and enthusiast.
She elaborated on why now was the time to get involved. “It’s the way of the world right now,” asking rhetorically, “Why not?”
Product quality was just as important. Wanting to live up to the quality cannabis she’s been exposed to in Brooklyn and beyond, Kim said that the product had to be of the highest quality.
“I’m surrounded by cannabis smokers—everyone around me,” she stated. “I have expensive taste.” After sampling what superbad had to offer, Kim said she came across the gas she was looking to align with.
What to Expect from Lil’ Kim in Cannabis
The trio focused on grander goals while saving product specifics for a later date.
Dew said that plans are in motion, but that they’d prefer to hold off on releasing any more information for now. “We’re going to do everything in phases; then it’s going to hit,” he stated. The trio did not announce when the next phase of news would roll out.
CampNova Co-founder Emery Morrison stated that Kim’s partnership would include promoting products through various video and audio efforts. CampNova is a tech e-commerce platform that he says is “socializing the process of ordering.”
In essence, Morrison stated that the platform functions like a combination of UberEats, Fashion Nova and Weedmaps, offering customers access to in-demand products through tiered membership. Customers can use the service for free or subscribe to monthly paid tiers for discounts and bonuses.
Lil’ Kim joins a roster of notable partner brands in and out of cannabis, currently offering between 30 and 40 brands on the platform. The star joins a CampNova roster that includes 2 Chainz, Cann, Mickey Hart, Carlos Santana, Lamar Odom, Jay-Z, Ricky Williams, Mike Tyson, Jerry Garcia and several others.
The company is also involved in the branding and product selection side, depending on the brand’s preferred sales and marketing plan. CampNova’s recent efforts include online social media promotion as well as physical activations.
In August 2021, the company linked up with Lil Wayne’s GKUA brand, giving free VIP livestream access to his show at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with every purchase of GKUA’s Ultra Premium product made through CampNova.
The group did not expand on what activations Lil’ Kim would be involved in. Offering a top-level overview, Dew stated that customers could expect an offering that equals Lil’ Kim’s status as a fashion and music icon.
With hope, Lil’ Kim will continue to push the California-based brand into iconic status as well. The premium millennial-focused indoor line is currently sold in four Southern California counties, offering flower, pre-roll joints and badder. Officially launched in October 2020, the L.A.-based superbad touts itself as “the brand of the culture,” asking consumers, “How bad are you?”
The cannabis brand’s desire to be “the perfect accent” to a modern lifestyle fits right in with Lil’ Kim’s brand. Dew discussed how his company’s vision aligned with Lil’ Kim and CampNova.
“Our whole thing is quality. So, Kim is going to bring a super quality,” he stated.
Kim elaborated, stating that she opted to partner with superbad after determining the brand was “sophisticated, classy and well-thought-out.” She added that she didn’t intend to slap her name on a brand, a move that often seems to be the case with specific celebrity endorsers.
Influencing Other Women and Girls to Become Business Leaders
The partnership between Lil’ Kim, superbad and CampNova carries additional significance, with all principles involved being Black entrepreneurs.
Morrison, whose background is in marketing and branding, working with top names like T Mobile and Monster Audio, highlighted the collaborative partnership between the three.
He said all parties are committed to ensuring each brand sees continued success, a strategy CampNova applies to each partnership. Doubling down, Morrison said it’s essential to support a project highlighted by a high-profile Black female hip-hop artist.
“There’s no other brand out there like that,” he stated.
If the venture does succeed, Morrison sees it creating an influence on other young Black girls, including his three daughters.
“I want them to see someone that’s a Black woman handling her thing so that they can dream,” he explained.
Dew offered a similarly optimistic view on Lil’ Kim’s potential impact. He stated, “I think she should be able to show the path forward for how women can start getting into the cannabis community and build their own businesses.”
Lil’ Kim delved into a similar ideal outcome. “I want to empower women to get more involved.” More specifically, she emphasized that she wants to let women know that they can do anything.
The Queen Bee Enters Cannabis
Small in stature and enormous in presence, Lil’ Kim has been a fixture in the entertainment and fashion worlds for decades. With explicit lyrics and a persona dripping in sex appeal, Lil’ Kim was one of the early female rap artists to help push and normalize female written sexually charged lyrics to a level where men often went with much less criticism.
Her debut album Hard Core went double platinum in the U.S., helping propel a career that includes a collaboration with Missy Elliot, Pink, Christina Aguilera, and Mýa on “Lady Marmalade,” and five studio albums. She has sold over 15 million albums and 30 million in singles throughout her career.
The Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn native was also part of the famed Junior M.A.F.I.A trio consisting of her, Lil Cease and the legendary Notorious B.I.G., who discovered Lil’ Kim in 1994. Lil’ Kim joins a cannabis market that includes B.I.G.’s son, C.J. Wallace, who launched his cannabis brand Think BIG in 2019.
MJBizDaily released a report on October 4 called “Women & Minorities in the Cannabis Industry,” which reviews new statistics about female and people of color executives and business owners in the cannabis industry.
According to MJBizDaily’s findings, the percentage of women and minorities in executive level positions in the cannabis industry have dropped between 2019-2021. The national average of women who hold executive positions in the industry throughout the country is 29.8 percent, but over the past two years, women in those positions in the cannabis industry has fallen to 22.1 percent.
In 2019, approximately 36.8 percent of executive positions in cannabis were held by women. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the percentage of women in higher level positions in other industries is significantly higher, around 30 percent (in 2018, it was 21 percent).
Likewise, the percentage of people of color in executive positions decreased as well. Currently, only 13.1 percent of those positions are held by people of color, compared to 28 percent in 2019.
In the report’s introduction, MJBizDaily author Jenel Stelton-Holtmeier shares that in this third iteration of this report, much has changed in the industry. “However, racial and gender diversity in the marijuana industry is still lacking—especially in ownership and executive positions,” she wrote. “So too is the amount of hard data by which to benchmark the current state of diversity in the marijuana sector, understand the obstacles standing in the way of a more equitable industry and contextualize the initiatives states are putting in place to address the issue.”
The report was written with data collected from various governmental agencies, as well as statistics gathered by MJBizDaily surveys.
Representation of People of Color and Women in Cannabis Broken Down
The report covers 12 charts reflecting “deficiencies” in the industry’s diversity. On a national level, 19.9 percent of women own a cannabis business. Twenty-five percent operate out of Nevada, 19 percent in Colorado, 10 percent in Ohio and five percent Massachusetts, which makes a stark comparison between older markets, newer markets, and those that currently only support medical cannabis versus recreational cannabis industries.
The report also exhibits the breakdown of women in executive positions, the highest being at testing labs (53.9 percent), consumption lounges/events (48.1 percent), wholesale cultivators (40.1 percent) and ancillary service providers (39 percent). The lowest percent of women in certain roles includes investors, vertically integrated businesses and ancillary technology or products.
“The low rate of executive positions held by women at cannabis investment firms is worrisome, as access to capital has become a critical component of creating and running a successful marijuana company,” the report states. “While cannabis businesses could be started with only $50,000 five years ago, licensing alone in most markets will run into six figures today. With men accounting for such a large portion of leadership in cannabis investing—and possibly favoring management teams led by other men, whether consciously or unconsciously—female executives could have a tougher time raising money.”
Percentages of minority business owners remain small when viewing data collected from Colorado, Michigan and Nevada, according to this breakdown.
Asian American/Pacific Islander: Four percent in Colorado, 3.8 percent in Michigan and 6.3 percent in Nevada.
Black or African American: 2.7 percent in Colorado, 3.8 percent in Michigan and 5.1 percent in Nevada.
Indigenous: 0.4 percent in Colorado, 0.8 percent in Michigan and 2.5 percent in Nevada.
Latino: 7.7 percent of owners in Colorado, 1.5 in Michigan and 12.8 percent in Nevada.
White/Caucasian: 83.7 percent in Colorado, 79 percent in Michigan and 63 percent in Nevada.
“While the data is limited in scope and might not be an indicator of minority representation in the broader cannabis industry, it provides an accurate snapshot of the level of diversity in these three markets and shows a distinct difference in the effect early focus on diversity can have on building the market,” the report notes about the limited data available.
The number of minority executives has also changed. In 2017, the report shows the percentage of cannabis business led by minority executives at 16.8 percent, with a jump to 28 percent in 2019. As of 2021, that number has since decreased down to 13.1 percent, which is only 0.1 percent of the national average.
MJBizDaily suggests that the strong push for social equity could increase these numbers. “Social equity programs are a critical aspect of new regulated marijuana markets, and several of the first markets are looking for ways to fix this gap,” the report states. “But most programs have fallen short of their goals. Some of the contributors to these hurdles include licensing delays, challenges to how the policies are implemented and a lack of access to capital for economically disadvantaged communities.”
The second portion of the report identifies the challenges that minorities face in the cannabis industry, which includes the high price of entry in application and licensing fees, as well as other startup costs such as real estate, renovations, utilities and security necessities. The median household net worth of Black or African Americans ($24,100), Hispanic or Latino ($36,200), or those of other/multiple races ($74,500) is significantly lower than that of White individuals ($188,200).
The report concludes with the suggestion that two things need to change: access to capital must be increased, and social equity programs need to continue to be established. It recommends support for numerous organizations whose goals are to improve general access and social equity efforts.
Amanda Reiman has worn many hats in the cannabis space. After receiving her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, she was named Director of Research and Patient Services at Berkeley Patients Group, one of the oldest dispensaries in the country.
She also became Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national non-profit set-up to draft and lead campaigns of initiatives across the U.S. and abroad.
As if this part of her resume isn’t impressive enough, Reiman also taught courses on substance abuse and treatment, and drug policy at U.C. Berkeley for 10 years.
As an internationally acclaimed cannabis expert and public health researcher, she’s been dubbed “The Brain” by Elle.com, she’s a leader in the area of cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs, presenting her research on cannabis dispensaries and the use of cannabis as a substitute for opiates all over the world.
Also an expert on local, national and international cannabis policy, Dr. Reiman was named the first Chairwoman of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission; also sitting on the Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
Reiman Finds Personal Plants
Reiman recently founded Personal Plants, a multi-media platform supporting home cultivation and processing of therapeutic plants. The site hosts articles and videos of experts teaching every aspect of growing a beneficial garden; with how-to guides on harvesting, processing and recipes for making remedies from the garden.
She says there are three different types of folks, those who grew up gardening with a green thumb; those who have always felt they can’t grow anything; and those who have no idea how to form relationships with plants, good or bad.
“I fell in love with the act of growing my own medicine,” she shared. “One of my first gardens was in Chicago in a closet with one light. I self-medicated illegally at that time for diagnosed arthritis. When I began my PhD program at U.C. Berkeley, I also became an official personal gardener in California.”
Reiman said she grew plants on her balcony initially, finding great satisfaction in taking a seed or a clone, adding dirt and watching it grow into cannabis—or her medicine.
“Lots of people have never seen a cannabis plant growing in the ground—or at all,” she said. “Some have only seen them in magazines. And information on growing was hard to find. Mostly, you’d read about a grower explaining how much they knew, rather than conveying easily digested information. For this reason, much of my early growing was done through trial and error.”
She eventually left city life for country life and a chance to grow her own outdoors, in the sun, as God and Goddess intended.
“I never missed the concrete jungle of the Bay Area,” she laughed. “When I moved to Mendocino I had land to farm—and grew sage, calendula, chamomile—as well as cannabis.”
Recognizing that many plants held medicinal and healing properties, she also found a community of gardeners. And they didn’t always talk about cannabis.
“I began to investigate a whole new world of plants,” she added. “Personal Plants was created to teach people not only how to grow their own cannabis, but to grow many beneficial plants in an age where people are becoming more suspicious of the negative side effects of pharmaceuticals and are intrigued to go into the garden to heal.”
The recent pandemic, she said, had a lot to do with her encouraging others to grow their own, no matter what the plant, as she watched many posting newly planted gardens on social media, as part of lockdown therapy, if you will.
“People are looking for alternatives, and with Personal Plants, we aim to lead them back to the garden in a simple way,” she concluded.
Gardening, Understanding & Advocacy
At U.C. Berkeley Reiman became frustrated at the amount of people slamming those visiting dispensaries in the newly created medical cannabis space, stating the consumers appeared to be healthy young men in their 30s.
“We did a survey about cannabis use to get to the bottom of who was using cannabis the most in this legal market,” she explained. “Most people assumed the demographic for cannabis use was younger, but we found the average person was in their 40s.”
The survey found that many dispensary customers were dealing with sports injuries and subsequent chronic pain from their youth, while other seemingly healthy young men were medicating for industrial or construction work injuries. This led to the common assumption, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
“If you go to a health club or gym and see who’s there, they are fit and healthy—why do they need to go to a club?” she pondered. “They go to the gym to stay that way. It’s the same thing with cannabis. We found they were going to the dispensaries in an attempt to feel better, quell their chronic pain and continue to be well.”
One of the main reasons Reiman said she earned the PhD is to add a layer of legitimacy to the work she wanted to do in the cannabis space.
“I knew that if I had the doctorate people would listen to me, plain and simple,” she said. “I was looking at the potential benefits of cannabis, and knew the work I did would be discounted from the get-go by both the academic and cannabis communities. I used my medical cannabis patient status and the fact I was an academic in order to challenge the stigma of what a cannabis patient or partaker looks like.”
Gardener, Not Grower: The Language is Changing
With Personal Plants, a main goal is to change the stereotype, while educating people about what it means to be a cannabis patient. Adding other beneficial plants to the mix from the common garden helps do that.
”Propaganda is the use of emotion to impact opinion,” she waxed poetic. “We need to replace the assumptions with a different emotion. As a scientist, I get frustrated after sharing all the studies, graphs, tables—and then someone will still say, ‘I just feel… ‘ We need them to feel something different—something not based on political bias—which is where the misinformation is coming from.”
Reiman said the masses need to understand the healing benefits of all plants—and to realize that cannabis, aside from the psychoactive effects of THC, has many of the same properties as other beneficial plants, or superfoods.
To add another layer, THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound in the cannabis plant that causes one to feel high, was increased over the years via hybridization by human hands. The plant did not begin with upwards of 30 percent THC, it became potent over time.
Historically, the cannabis plant was said to have weighed in at around five percent or less THC. Knowing this makes the argument against THC hard to bear. That said, THC does have a place in medicine. It’s a beneficial compound in its own right, it just needs to be managed in order to find your therapeutic dose.
Positive benefits of the plant include fighting inflammation, infection—just two components of many beneficial plants from the healing garden.
“With Personal Plants, we are attempting to reach people who do not think of themselves as cannabis experts or connoisseurs,” she added. “We are looking for people who have real health issues, and are looking to the garden for help—wanting to learn how to grow their own—not just cannabis.”
The right to grow your own cannabis, she said, is actually a social justice issue.
“Everyone should have the right to grow beneficial plants,” she said. “Take tobacco, for instance. It’s a beneficial plant when grown and processed naturally. The additives used by the tobacco industry makes it a toxic plant, with the tobacco industry working to restrict the right to grow it themselves. This is when gardening truly becomes a social justice issue.”
As COVID and lockdowns change the way people look at sustainability, Reiman said there are many lessons to be learned from the garden.
“Everyone should know how to make a simple tincture or salve,” she said. “With Personal Plants, we don’t just show them how to grow beneficial plants, we also teach them how to harvest, process, and make their own remedies.”
Gardening is not new, but for many, it’s a whole new world of sourcing your own and doing it yourself. It also brings satisfaction in knowing where your medicine comes from.
“People are thinking now, what if the supply chains we depend on are disrupted, what are we going to do?” she surmised. “Self-sufficiency becomes everything. Knowing I can grow my own cannabis and other healing plants makes me feel more secure if drug store chains fall off the face of the earth. I can still find relief from the garden, and so can you.”