Morgan Kristine is president of the Marijuana Business Association and founder of the MJBA Women’s Alliance. She is also a long-time cannabis activist, grower, and enthusiast.
Morgan recently joined the Ganjapreneur podcast for a discussion with our host Shango Los about the growing number of women entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry, as well as the sexism in advertising which has been present across much of the market. In the interview, Morgan shares her thoughts on how to improve gender equality in the cannabis industry, why using cannabis in public is an important step in the cannabis normalization process, and more.
Listen via the media player below, or scroll down for the full transcript.
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Shango Los: Hi there and welcome to the Ganjapreneur.com podcast. I’m your host, Shango Los. The Ganjapreneur.com podcast gives us an opportunity to speak directly to entrepreneurs, cannabis growers, product developers, and cannabis medicine researchers, all focused on making the most of cannabis normalization. As your host, I do my best to bring you original cannabis industry ideas that will ignite your own entrepreneurial spark and give you actionable information to improve your business strategy and improve your health and the health of cannabis patients everywhere. Today, my guest is Morgan Kristine. Morgan is president of the Marijuana Business Association and founder of the MJBA Women’s Alliance. A long-time cannabis activist and grower, Morgan also has a successful background in international business, working with clients like Lucasfilm and Corbis, and as vice president of Masters FX, one of Hollywood’s leading makeup and creative effects studios. Welcome, Morgan.
Morgan Kristine: Welcome, thank you so much. It’s great to be here.
Shango Los: Morgan, as co-founder of the first truly functional national cannabis trade organization, you saw a need for something more specific for women and went ahead and formed the MJBA Women’s Alliance within the existing organization. What did you see that called for a specific women’s alliance?
Morgan Kristine: It was pretty powerful. I’ve met so many woman in the industry, and I started hanging out and doing business with women. We decided that if we’re going to get together, we might as well be talking about business since we’re all there together. When women get together and they start talking about their business, it’s a totally different passion. The level of enthusiasm and just the camaraderie that we have when we get together is just incredibly powerful. I got together with a couple of other ladies in the industry and said, “Let’s really do this.” In May of 2014, we launched our first event which was called a power luncheon.
Shango Los: I would think that it would also serve your interest as well to come together as a power block because technically, you could get together at the regular trade organization meetings and chat, but by pulling yourselves together, you blend your powers to be able to take care of the things that you want to.
Morgan Kristine: Oh, it’s so true. When you think about how one powerful woman is a fierce force to be reckoned with but you put 50 to 100 women into this same room talking about cannabis, it just will blow your mind. We don’t have anything against men. We all love and appreciate men. So many of the guys in the industry have taught us so much. We can talk about issues without you there that will actually feel like we’ve been validated, we’ve been heard, and then that pushes us forward to more success. You know what I’m saying?
Shango Los: I do, but I would love to hear a couple of examples of the different topics that you handled differently when you’re together.
Morgan Kristine: As you probably know, sexism is huge in the cannabis industry. It’s huge everywhere, actually. When we’re talking about a brand new industry and we talk about sexism, when we talk about, for example, vape pens or dab rigs, and then you put them in combinations with half-naked women, we’re sending the wrong message. We can talk about that openly when we put together about what we want to do going forward. We don’t think it’s necessary. We don’t think we need to actually … We can do a better job. We can do this whole new industry without having to sexualize women. That’s just one example of some of the things that we do together. It’s just so much easier to talk about when the guys aren’t around.
Shango Los: We all know that the prohibition era of marijuana business was pretty male dominated. Now with the normalization, we’re not only seeing that women are starting and running these hugely successful companies and organizations, but I dare say that the industry is starting to become dominated by women. Why do you think that the women are gaining so much more influence in the post-legalization back during prohibition?
Morgan Kristine: Cannabis, that we cultivate marijuana from, is a female plant. I think right there in it of itself is a license to run with it. The businesses that are coming up are all women who’ve been in the industry or maybe they’ve just been tired of working for the man and they want to start their own thing. It’s like, why not this industry? We’re your growers, we’re your patients, we’re your educators. We purchase more marijuana than anybody else. It’s like, why wouldn’t we just starting taking over the industry? Why wouldn’t we step up and come out of the closets and say, I run a business, I want a network, I want community, and I want opportunity to provide for my family just like any man wants to do but now is the time because it’s never been done before.
Shango Los: Totally hear what you’re saying, Morgan, especially the part about the community. Here where I live on Vashon Island, we’ve got a few recreational cannabis growers and the biggest are all owned and operated by women. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that the meetings of the trade organization here on the island are so much more warm and communicative now because the mostly male-dominated prohibition growers, they are very concerned for their secrets and it’s very competitive and it’s kind of got a guy vibe to it. Now that the companies that are more influential are owned by women, it just seems to be a more warm and inviting and sharing of information environment. I really think that’s better for everybody, both the businesses and the patients.
Morgan Kristine: I totally agree. I really commend any organization or club or committee that gets together to talk about cannabis. There are so many wonderful ones. I started out with Women of Weed, Ah Warner and Shawn DeNae started this fantastic organization for women to get together just to imbibe and to share and to feel but we didn’t really talk about business. We really kept it light and friendly and warm. I joined NORML Women of Washington with Danica Nobel and I thought there I was like, this is awesome, this is incredible. It wasn’t too much longer when I said, okay it’s only a natural fit for me to slide from the marijuana business association as a whole into bringing women together on a regular basis.
Shango Los: I would suspect that when given the opportunity to get together as professional businesswomen that you are just attracting interest in droves by women who are like, oh my gosh thank goodness that there’s finally an organization for me, specifically within an industry that they’re passionate about as healers and cannabis makers and processors.
Morgan Kristine: You bet and so many men too like, please take my wife, please. I want her to get into this industry and want her to understand what I do. I’m like, absolutely, bring her on in. At the Women’s Alliance when we have our gatherings, it’s usually an evening or perhaps a luncheon where we’ll talk about business for the first 50 minutes and that might just be business plans, vision statements, creating our logos or whatever that may be. Then the second half of the programming may be dedicated to just specific cannabis industry-related topics. Students for Sensible Drug Policy come out. We’ve had Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Women in these industries that are helping us on a local level here in Washington and we’re also in Colorado and in Portland.
Shango Los: That’s an interesting idea too that the cross industry contacts as well. I would think that … Very often in male-dominated arenas, we tend to want to over speak women and we just get louder as our communication tactic. I would think that there are a lot of really creative ideas that come out from not just people who have introverted communication styles but just women without needing to worry about being talked over the top by a guy.
Morgan Kristine: It’s so true. I can’t tell you how many times in a business meeting I was cut off or somebody’s back was turned to me. I’ve had sexist remarks made at me and I’ve had inappropriate touching. I’ve had this before, it’s not just cannabis. We need to educate men, you seem like you’re very enlightened, more guys need to be like you. We need to understand that this is a team, we can move this industry along together but we need the support. I really believe that if women start getting involved locally in politics, locally in healthcare, growers, producers, and the retail women. Have you seen how many women are coming out strong on the retail end of it?
Shango Los: All over the place.
Morgan Kristine: Yeah, yeah. More women just need to get together and start talking about what they want to do and dream big, you know dream it. I just couldn’t be happier with the women that are really making this happen in Washington and all over the world actually.
Shango Los: It’s a good thing that it is. We’re going to take a short break and be right back. You are listening to the Ganjapreneur.com podcast.
Shango Los: Welcome back, you are listening to the Ganjapreneur.com podcast. I’m your host Shango Los and our guest this week is Morgan Kristine of the MJBA Women’s Alliance. Morgan, before the break we were talking about how so often in cannabis advertising we get these images that are overly sexualized and how many of us really do not want the industry to go that way. However, it seems that as the industry gets bigger, we are continually introducing new players that still have not been hip to that we want to advertise in a more mature way and so we’re constantly having to educate folks. What’s the experience that you and the Women’s Alliance have had with coming into contact with folks who are using hyper sexualized images and how do you communicate with them about considering something different?
Morgan Kristine: We’ve handled it on a couple of different levels. We’ve discussed this at some of our meetings. There’s a hashtag going around it’s called, not buying it. Anytime you see a cannabis product that’s been over sexualized with men or women, either way. I’ve seen men half naked with hemp on their junk. I’m not cool with that either. Sexualization in any form really has no place. I understand that we want to be pretty when we sell stuff, we want to look good. Nobody is going to buy an ounce from some slob but they’re more likely from somebody who is a little more attractive. Finding that line is really important but you know when it’s over sexualized because it’s in your gut. It gives you that feeling of like, that’s kind of wrong.
I’m all for talking to men about it. I’ve done this at Cannacom, there’s been vendors who have had huge signs with half naked women. It’s just a matter of letting them know, hey I’m a consumer, I’m one of your customers, and I’m not happy with that. I’m offended and I’m not going to buy your products and I’m going to make sure that other women know about you as well. We don’t want to be mean. I really just think that some men just don’t know. They don’t know any other way because it’s been ingrained in their psyches for so long. I’m saying, save that sexualization for the woman you go home to at night, you don’t need it in your cannabis purchase price.
Shango Los: Morgan, how likely is it that we’re going to be able to eradicate this kind of imagery from the industry when it exists in all the other industries? I obviously understand that we want to minimize it as much as possible but what do you see as the goal here? Is the goal to clean up cannabis at its very outset so that trajectory is better or do you see it more as, try to take care of every instant as it comes? How will you know if you’re succeeding?
Morgan Kristine: I think we’re at a good point because now major media is starting to pick us up. I was in National Geographic last summer, Gogo Lidz just did a fantastic piece in Newsweek, and of course now Forbes is on the bandwagon. I think if we can get some major media people to understand that women in business and in cannabis is coming on and we may not be able to solve it right away. These movements take a lot of time and it’s going to be slow but we have to attack it both on the small side and not purchasing products that are offensive, educating people about what it really is all about, is it necessary, and then taking action. Let them know, hashtag it, not buying it. Put a sticker on it, this over sexualizes women. This perpetuates, the more they keep putting those ads up, it perpetuates that women should be sexual objects and it’s not cool. It’s so lame and it’s even worse on these … Are men really that dumb? You really have to be fed this kind of ad to be purchasing your pot? I’m telling you, you’re going to love the pot no matter what, it doesn’t really matter. I think that there’s all different ways to market but I think it’s going to take a long time and take all of us getting involved to say something, even the men.
Shango Los: We had a really great discussion on this show a couple of weeks ago with Wes Abney, the publisher of Northwest Leaf magazine about how he doesn’t taken overly sexualized ads and how he has spent a good deal of time educating his advertisers about why he doesn’t think that’s the best approach for them and they kind of work through that. What do you recommend for people of either gender to communicate to the companies that are using this kind of imagery? We don’t want to create a situation where it is angry conflict because that will just isolate and alienate the vendor. You’ve obviously spoken about this at length so what kind of words do you find are to the point and yet nonconflict creating?
Morgan Kristine: I think a soft approach is really all you need. Again, I really just don’t think that men understand that if you look me in the eye and I look at you and I say, I’m offended by this, can you help with it? He’s going to say yes or no, either no I’m not going to listen you or I’ll take it under consideration. I like to go straight to the head. Wes Abney is a great example. He has a wife and lovely daughters. He gets it, he understands it. There are a lot of millennials that maybe don’t have the wife and the girlfriend and the experience to know or the education that it’s not going to happen, it’s not going to work, and we’re not going to let it. We just have to be able to slow it and then eventually eradicate it.
Shango Los: That’s a really good point about the generational difference between my generation with me being 44 and the millennials who are 15 years or more younger, they’re so used to more violence, more whiz bang, more fast cut videos, just everything is more intense and they become more desensitized to it. I think that it’s a different message to communicate with people of my generation than it is to a younger generation but I also think that even though they are possibly more desensitized to it, they also don’t seem to be as responsive to that kind of marketing. It’s almost like, ugh sexuality has been played out, what else do you have?
Morgan Kristine: Exactly, I totally agree. I was just going to say, I give the millennials a lot of credit. I think with the new generation coming up, they’re not all just lazy stoners. Not everybody who smokes weed is worthless. It’s like, come on you guys we’ve got to be smart about what we put out there in the industry. It’s just a matter of time and education.
Shango Los: I know the Women’s Alliance has a lot of members and growing. What are some of the other topics that the group is very activated on other than the sexualization of advertising? I know you’ve got a whole agenda of really interesting things. What are some of the others?
Morgan Kristine: Oh my gosh. We do a lot of wonderful work with say for instance, the Pink Gene Foundation. We did a fundraiser or Tara Martin’s Pink Gene Foundation which is raising awareness in breast cancer in young women. We did raffles and fundraisers. What I’m really super excited about is our event coming up on September 24 where we have taken a proactive stance against the cities and counties that are resisting the cannabis industry. We’ve got five women in politics including Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles who is now running for Seattle City Council and four other incredible women. We’re going to help fund raise for them so they can get into office and start helping us change the moratoriums and the blocks that are on the industry. It’s going to be a semi-formal event with probably a hundred women with an incredible chef-inspired dinner, raffles, prizes, and fundraising. It’s historical. We’ve never had a group of women come together at this beautiful Sorento Hotel and actually encourage these women in politics to start making changes so this industry can continue to thrive.
Shango Los: That brings up a really interesting point too because the agenda of the Alliance doesn’t necessarily have to be issues that effect mostly or solely women. The event that you just talked about, we could have had that same event with both guys and gals and raised money and increased the awareness of the moratoriums. However, like you were saying before the break, when women are together they communicate using a different set of languages and nods, it’s just different organically. I think that creates an opportunity for people who would normally be either shouted over or disenfranchised to participate in a way that brings more of a swelling to the movement in corollary to the rest of the movement not necessarily separate from the movement.
Morgan Kristine: It’s so true. When we had our first Oregon meetup with all the women, we had a luncheon. The business women came out and as you know, Oregon is just getting off the ground but man, the women down there are really hustling. They’re getting their names out there, they’re getting brands out there, they’re coming together, and I just couldn’t be happier. Women all over the United States are starting to get together but when they get together and talk about business and how they’re going to make money and they start talking about their dreams and their hopes and know that the sky is unlimited, you walk away feeling validated, empowered. That’s ultimately what we want. We want women to feel strong in their space and to work hard. They do, I’m telling you, these women in the industry are busting their butts and it’s really starting to show off. I think if we can just get them the support that they need, there’s no stopping it.
Shango Los: When you’re giving them that kind of support, you’re pretty minting entrepreneurs. You are saying, you can do this. You’ve got a posse behind you so what’s your great idea and let’s get into it. We’re going to take another short break and be right back. You are listening to the Ganjapreneur.com podcast.
Shango Los: Welcome back, you are listening to the Ganjapreneur.com podcast. I’m your host Shango Los and our guest this week is Morgan Kristine of the MJBA Women’s Alliance. Before the break, we were talking about the power of bringing women together to create new entrepreneurs and have them fell supported. I think that’s one of the key aspects of the Women’s Alliance is causing this swelling and moving forward and increasing of women in the cannabis industry ranks. Morgan, as somebody who travels the country speaking to women’s groups and essentially cheering them on to get involved, what do you see as some of the best things that can be done at the local level to start these grass roots organizations? A lot of the folks getting into cannabis itself is new but also creating a new women’s organization might be new to them as well but you’ve done this now several times. Go ahead and break out the blueprint for folks so that they can start doing this where they live.
Morgan Kristine: Yeah, sure. It’s also very scary. I think that’s also been part of the problem. Talking about pot or smoking pot in public or even growing, you’ve been fearful and scared and hidden for so long. I would encourage any woman who is already a casual user or is just extremely interested in the industry to find another woman who is doing the same thing and has the same interests. Start slow, get together 5-10 women on a Thursday night and talk about what’s going on. Talk about the news, what have you heard, what’s happening in your city? Is it medical? Is it recreational? Then start getting active. The way to get active is to show up at association meetings, show up at rallies, go down to your courthouse, your city council meetings.
The way that we started with the MJBA and the Women’s Alliance was just a matter of getting all the growers that I knew together, all of the smokers that I knew together, putting them in a room and talking about the topics that matter. Our goal at the time as it is today is legalization. The way to move the ball forward is to get it removed Schedule I and the goal is to normalize it so women, please smoke in public or smoke in front of your friends who may be drinking instead and encourage them to … Show them the benefits of cannabis and just talk about it. The more that you talk about it, the more you normalize it, the more you normalize it you’ll start turning the heads of the old cranky people who don’t get it or the stodgy old people who just have the old mindset of what cannabis used to be and how you used to go to jail. You have to be careful at the same time but it requires people to be bold, you’ve got to be brave.
Shango Los: I long your idea of modeling cannabis for your neighbors by puffing in front of them so that they feel more free to do it themselves. That’s a great image.
Morgan Kristine: You bet, absolutely. I always get concerned though too. I’ll smoke outside and I see a kid and I’m so nervous about it. I’m like, well I better hide it. Well, their dad is right there chugging a beer, why shouldn’t I be able to enjoy my joint in privacy and away from the building and within all the regular guidelines. Then I’m like, you know what, I’m okay with this and I think other women should be too and men in general.
Shango Los: I like what you said about not only getting everybody together for these women’s nights to get something started and have an actual agenda and talk about what directions you want to move in and what you can do that’s concrete. We talked with Ah Warner from Cannabis Basics and one of the things she said that really turned me on was that not only is she an entrepreneur and doing the Cannabis Basics business but she’s also very active in the legislature and she’s influencing politicians and she’s going to them on behalf normalization but also her health and beauty aids legislation. She’s playing this dual role, both as entrepreneur and also as active citizen.
Morgan Kristine: I love Ah Warner. Honestly, she has been one of the major women who have inspired me. She is the one who pulled me into Women of Weed and she’s the one who actually helped me inspire the whole business side of it. The great thing, I’m just always so impressed with her so this new HOBA bill that she had help with passing allows for less 0.3 THC in health and beauty products. This is major. This is something that she’s been working hard on, she’s been aligning herself with the right people, getting to know her legislators, showing up and doing exactly what she’s supposed to be doing and it’s working. To have this level of THC in an over-the-counter product is historical. Absolutely, good on her and good on all the work that she’s doing. There are so many wonderful women and she is the perfect example.
Shango Los: Yeah, that’s a really good example of modeling too. We may have been joking before about getting high in front of our friends to encourage them to but also Ah doesn’t just say, go and do this. She’s all like, follow me and that’s the kind of leader that I’m more down with.
Morgan Kristine: Absolutely. We always have a great time when we get together. It’s fun too. We work, work, work and I was always joking because so many of us women have products in our trunks. We show up at conventions together and you pop a trunk and there’s all of our swag and our stuff and our products and we haul it in in our sneakers and we go in and put on a slight higher pump and in Ah’s case she usually has three-inch platforms. I don’t know if you’ve seen those boots but they’re high.
Shango Los: Yeah, I have.
Morgan Kristine: I’m really, really impressed with Ah and there are so many women in her organization and in NORML, Women Grow, Women’s Alliance. There are so many wonderful organizations that are already out there but if there isn’t, start your own. Get together and make it on a recurring basis so that you always know that that month is coming up and you know what you want to talk about and make it fun at the same time.
Shango Los: That’s great. I can’t think of any other way to end this than by cheering on Ah Warner. With that, we’re going to call it a day. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us Morgan.
Morgan Kristine: Thank you, Shango. This was really a lot of fun, I’m happy to have done it.
Shango Los: Morgan Kristine is founder of the MJBA Women’s Alliance. You can find out more at MJBA.net also on Facebook on /MJBA Women’s Alliance and also the MJNewsNetwork.com. You can find more episodes of the Ganjapreneur podcast in the podcast section at Ganjapreneur.com. You can also find us on the Cannabis Radio Network website and in the Apple iTunes store. On the Ganjapreneur.com website, you will find the latest cannabis news, product reviews, and cannabis jobs updated daily along with transcriptions of this podcast. You can also download the Ganjapreneur.com app in iTunes and Google Play. We’re also thrilled to announce this week that you can now find the show on the I Heart Radio Network app bringing the Ganjapreneur podcast to 60 million mobile devices. Thanks to Brasco for producing our show. I’m your host, Shango Los.