A Conference to Celebrate

A Celebration of Women’s Health and the Future of Cannabis


A celebration can take on many forms: a raucous party, a formal affair, a casual get-together. The Celebrate Women of Cannabis conference took a novel approach by respecting and addressing the real needs and questions women have about using cannabis to heal.


Hundreds of people gathered at the Arcata Community Center in Arcata, California for the conference, a welcome refuge from the wildfire ash lingering in the air outside. UpNorth Distribution and Humboldt Patient Resource Center brought together a full day of speakers to lead women-centric discussions on the state of the industry, women’s power in the medical market, and pending policies that producers face. Attendees were also able to meet face-to-face with female business owners, including local farmers, employment agencies, and edible producers.

Humboldt Leaders on Community

Three women who serve vital, though different, roles in Humboldt County led the first panel discussion. Chrystal Ortiz, a second-generation cannabis farmer and director of operations for True Humboldt, began with a reminder of cannabis’s history in the Emerald Triangle.


That history of growing has shifted through the decades, from the back-to-the-land movement that drew many to the rural mountains of Northern California, to compassionate causes driven by medical cannabis.


“Compassion [is rooted in] this movement. It moved from compassion into social justice and all of us recognizing and realizing the war on drugs, and the impact it was having on marginalized communities,” Ortiz said. For this reason, she recommended cannabis businesses consider the B-corporation option; this puts profits back into the company, rather than into the pockets of shareholders.


Fellow panelist, Kristin Nevedal, shared stories of her involvement in the fight for medicinal cannabis. She remains an activist, and works as director for Americans for Safe Access and is also chair of the International Cannabis Farmers Association. Her greatest concern, she said, is preserving access for patients, particularly those who need high potency products to combat conditions like cancer and epilepsy.


“We’re facing two battles: to preserve legalization and to also make sure patients don’t get lost in this shuffle moving forward,” Nevedal said. Cannabis policy is developing differently in every state as the momentum builds, but she noted that access is sometimes limited or non-existent in states with narrow medical cannabis laws.


Joining Nevedal and Ortiz on the Humboldt panel was Dr. Pepper Hernandez, a cannabis therapy consultant with a Doctorate in Classical Naturopathy and Traditional Naturopathy. Hernandez said she’s witnessed firsthand the fear that doctors and nurses have in regards to cannabis and the culture of silence it creates.


After discovering that juicing and CBD dosing could help her with conditions in her own life, Hernandez said she discovered just how difficult it is for patients to find consistent products. This presents an opportunity for farmers, she said, who stand to benefit from growing specific strains with medical benefits, not just those that are easy to sell at a premium prices.  


“What we’re going to be able to find is the most potent medicine for that person, they will be able to heal themselves in a powerful way and it will go quickly. We will see a huge shift,” Hernandez said. “[Cannabis is going to give] our life back to us and our health back to us and that, ultimately, is freedom.”


Women Focused Research and Wellness

That idea of “giving our health back to us” was precisely what Dr. Jessica Knox explored further during her hour on stage. She is a preventive medicine physician and co-founder of the American Cannabinoid Clinics. Knox walked the attentive audience through facts and figure, such as:


  • one in ten adults has chronic pain
  • one in five adults expresses mental illness in a given year
  • one in three has high blood pressure, insomnia, pre-diabetes


“Conventional medicine is great for acute care for extreme medical conditions. Once patients are stabilized, we aren’t great at keeping people healthy,” Knox said of the medical industry.


The big numbers came here though:


  • Women drive 70-80 percent of the consumer market
  • Women in the U.S. make 80 percent of medical decisions


“What does that all add up to? Women are bosses. We are poised to be powerful in the cannabis industry,” Knox said. Though they’re often making medical decisions for their family, surveys showed women often don’t feel confident in these decisions and don’t know where to find accurate information, she said. Especially about cannabis. To help bridge that gap, Knox reviewed different kinds of pain the body experiences and the types of cannabinoids and terpenes that typically target them.


Another speaker explored the diseases and conditions that disproportionately affect women, including uterine/ovarian cysts and polycystic ovary syndrome. Jessica Peters is the founder of Moxie Meds and a passionate cannabinoid and terpene expert, and she gleefully described her favorite cannabinoids and terpenes and how they can aid women’s health.


Cannabis helped her reduce her endometriosis symptoms, a chronic condition that affects more than 6.3 million females in the U.S., according to the Endometriosis Association. After successful treatment with the use of CBD tinctures, Peters said medical experts were still unwilling to consider cannabis as an option. Peters implored that this must change.


“Push back at your physicians!” Peters said. “We feel a lot of fear addressing this with our physicians, but they should feel fear for not knowing this. It’s time to talk about it and flip the script, so it’s other people who feel like they need to learn.”


Peters, who works with patients ages four to 97, said she faces many misconceptions about cannabis, especially CBD-only products. CBD often works best in tandem with other cannabinoids and terpenes, though she suggests new patients who are nervous about THC and “getting high” start with a tincture with a ratio of 20:1 CBD to THC, then slowly move up.  


Regulations On the Rise

Female farmers had plenty to take in at the conference. Emily Richardson from CW Analytical reviewed the proposed testing standards, cleared up common misconceptions about testing results and costs, and shared several tips on preventing contamination.


The evening ended with a panel featuring cannabis compliance lawyer, Kimberly R. Simms, and Amanda R. Conley, who specializes in intellectual property law as it applies to the cannabis industry. The discussion explored challenges and opportunities cannabis businesses face in the changing legal landscape.


Recognizing the medicinal value, alongside practical information, for women in the industry is what made this conference a celebration. These females aren’t just offering a pat on the back during the transition period, they’re providing actual women-focused information and advice so they can lift themselves up, and in turn, their communities. Now that’s a celebration.


To watch the full versions of each talk and panel, visit Green Flower Media at Facebook.com/greenflowermedia

Sources for stats:
One in ten adults suffers from chronic pain, according to a 2012 National Health Interview Survey.
One in five adults expresses mental illness in a given year, reports the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
According to multiple source, including “Women Want More,” a book by Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre, women drive 70-80 percent of consumer spending.
Women in the U.S. make 80 percent of medical decisions in their families, reports the U.S. Department of Labor.


From One Emerald Triangle to Another: Lessons on Cannabis, Hemp and Cultivation from Oregon’s Pioneer Pete

Emerald contributor since December 2016


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