Emerald Media speaks with Kris Haas, CEO of Botanica Boutique, about her personal and professional experience with cannabis. Haas’s excitement about the growing cannabis industry and her desire to help others prompted her to launch The Botanica Boutique during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I want to teach people that they need to take some time, even a few minutes a day, to care for themselves,” explains Haas. Even though it has not been the easiest journey, Haas loves helping people explore how CBD can improve their lives.
Emerald Magazine (EM): How did you first find cannabis/hemp?
Kris Haas (KH): I first found cannabis like a lot of other people my age probably, when I was a young teenager. It was a totally different experience back then. You never knew what type of weed you were getting and how it would hit you. It hit me enough times in a good way that I started to love it. As an adult, I used it here and there, but the lack of reliable quality was frustrating. The new world of cannabis that’s emerging now is so exciting to me.
EM: Tell us about the first time you smoked or used cannabis/hemp.
KH: The first time I smoked I was probably about 14 years old. I had smoked cigarettes (I know, bad), so I took to it pretty much right away. Though, I recognized that the feeling I got from the joint I smoked was way more enjoyable than the stinky cigarettes I could never have enough of.
EM: Do you have any favorite strains?
KH: Right now I’m very into White Widow for daytime. But, I absolutely love experimenting with all different kinds of strains. It has become like wine to me. The different smells and flavors intrigue and entice me. I also love trying a new strain and unpacking how I feel about it. I started keeping a journal to keep track of my thoughts about each strain. Sometimes I’ll try one at night and think, ‘Oh, this would be amazing during the day for a writing session,’ or, ‘I would love to experiment with this while I cook a big meal for my family.’
I also love finding strains for others. I’m always looking for the perfect strain for my husband. He has trouble finding cannabis strains that will allow him to focus and work. We have been playing with micro-dosing, which I love.
EM: Where did you get the idea for The Botanica Boutique?
KH: During the last year of this crazy time in our history, I felt my anxiety (that I’ve always had) skyrocket and become out of control. I turned to the support system in my life to help me out of it. I also found that using CBD and THC products really helped me.
I was a middle school teacher and had to take some time off to take care of myself and heal. Teaching in general is an incredibly stressful, thankless job. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had in my life, aside from being a parent. Teaching during a global pandemic felt impossible. My anxiety was out of control and I found a lot of relief in CBD and cannabis products. During the time I needed to heal my body and mind, I came up with the idea for The Botanica Boutique. I wanted to bring others the relief that I felt. The educator in me wanted to teach them how they could feel better with this amazing plant!
EM: What do you believe are the benefits of cannabis/hemp?
KH: There are so many! It can help with anxiety, insomnia, depression, pain, etc. Personally, I have found relief from my constant anxiety, depression, pain and even PMS/menstrual symptoms. Cannabis and CBD help me to be a better parent to my son — to be more present in the moment. It helps my patience, too!
A couple of years ago, I would have reached for a glass of wine (and another, and another) to help ease the stress of the day. Then I wouldn’t feel well. I find that I don’t drink nearly as much anymore. I feel better. It has even helped my focus, which has been a struggle for me during the pandemic. I look at the local mom’s Facebook groups and they post about so many similar struggles. CBD and cannabis is something a lot of people don’t know much about. But, it can really help.
EM: What stigmas or push backs are you up against?
KH: There are so many negative, deeply-rooted stigmas surrounding the cannabis plant in this country. When Mexican immigrants brought the recreational use of cannabis to this country at the turn of the 20th century, the powers that be in the U.S. didn’t like it. The 1930’s film Reefer Madness vilified the plant and anyone who uses it. For whatever reason, large swaths of the country seem to never have gotten over that.
For me, the biggest push back I’ve gotten, by far, has been dealing with retaining payment processing. I never thought that would be the big battle when I first started this business. Since cannabis is federally illegal still, banks tend to shy away from cannabis companies. The thing that is bizarre is that CBD is legal (since the 2018 Farm Bill), but since it’s tied to the cannabis plant, it suffers from the negative stigma as well.
I don’t think many people realize the hoops that CBD companies need to jump through to lock down payment processing solutions or how much extra we have to pay as opposed to other industries. I was using Square for a while, but they dropped me without any notice and even when I tried to apply for their “CBD Pilot Program,” they just ghosted me. I still have never heard back from Square.
As a side note: as I was writing this, I heard back from a pretty well-known organization that supports LGBTQ youth. I reached out because I wanted to donate a portion of my proceeds for the month of June to them. They said no because they do not work with CBD or cannabis-related companies. So, once again, there’s that stigma.
EM: What are the core values of The Botanica Boutique?
KH: Self-care isn’t selfish — it’s essential. That’s our motto. This ties in with my beliefs and vision for the company. I want to teach people that they need to take some time, even a few minutes a day, to care for themselves. CBD makes that easy for people, especially womxn, who don’t have the time.
My commitment to my clients is that I will offer only the highest-quality products that I personally vet myself. I also work with people one-on-one until we find something that works well for them. I also only source products from companies that I believe are “small” and/or socially-responsible. Some of the companies donate proceeds to various charities and some fight for change in the cannabis community. I also love to support womxn and minority-owned businesses as much as possible.
EM: What does the term social equity mean to you?
KH: Social equity is very important to me. As a teacher, I brought lessons into my classroom constantly surrounding equity and privilege. I taught at a mainly white school and felt it was my responsibility as an educator to teach kids about these things. I loved using resources that I would find to illuminate what equity really means.
I feel the same in the world of cannabis. I love organizations like Women Grow and The Last Prisoner Project (LPP) and I think their work is so important. One of my products donates 10% of their proceeds to The LPP. I also would like to get involved with The Veterans Cannabis Project. As a child of a veteran, I know how poor the healthcare can be for our vets and I know how effective cannabis can be in treating PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc. Access to cannabis would be ground-breaking for our military veterans.
EM: What does restorative justice look like?
KH: First off, I feel like we need to work toward a better solution for any drug incarceration. People shouldn’t be going to prison for drug possession or use. We need a system that treats people addicted to illegal drugs and rehabilitates them, not locks them up. Cannabis crimes should be completely expunged. I know we are working toward that state-by-state, but that needs to happen on a federal level. The amount of people, especially of color, that are incarcerated for cannabis is mind blowing. I hope that [New Jersey] comes through with a legal cannabis plan that serves communities impacted hardest by the War on Drugs, as they say they intend to. Policies that are truly inclusive will really help.
EM: Do you have a mentor?
KH: I have had many over the course of my life. My first was my mom. She was a single mom from the time I was a young teenager and battled depression and anxiety. But, she still hustled and raised my sister and I and kept a roof over our heads. Sometimes we didn’t have heat, but we always had security and love.
In business, it’s probably a boss I had when I first moved to NYC, Joan. She was tough to work with at first until I really understood her. [Joan] was a single badass business woman making it happen on her own in New York. She inspired me to not accept less than what I wanted. She encouraged me to go back to school to finish my BA at 25 years old. Then she supported me through two years of a full class load. She let me work flexible hours and even continued paying for my health benefits. She taught me so much about business and about womxn taking care of other womxn and how necessary that is in this world. Especially in a city like New York! I don’t think I would be where I am today, career wise, without her in my life.
EM: Do you mentor others?
KH: I’ve never officially mentored anyone. I have an open door policy with friends and family. I will talk through and help as much as I can. I would love to help other womxn, the way Joan helped me.
EM: What is a day like in your position for Botanica Boutique?
KH: Each day is so different and I love that! Being your own boss affords me the kind of freedom and flexibility that I never had as a public school teacher. It’s a hustle, but I love that.
Some days I focus on working one-on-one with clients who want to sample products (a cornerstone of my business). Other days, I’m packing orders and making local deliveries and running to the post office to mail packages. I started doing outdoor markets, which has been amazing. It allows me to speak to clients and find out what they are looking for and who they are. Not having a retail storefront, I don’t get to do that face-to-face a lot. I’m currently working on “Tupperware” type parties for CBD. I have so many people interested already! People who are helped by the products want to invite their friends and family to experience it, too.
EM: What is your standpoint or views on women in the cannabis industry?
KH: I love to see so many womxn coming into the cannabis industry. It has actually been a big support for me, as I’ve made my way in! Aside from a few snags along the way, it has mostly been a huge source of support and inspiration for me. I feel like, as womxn in this historically male dominated industry, we need to hold each other up, not tear each other down. There is room for us here and if we all make space for each other and have each other’s backs, it could really be an amazing thing.
EM: How do you feel society views women in the cannabis business?
KH: I feel like it’s all over the place. Generally, I feel like this country views cannabis in such a negative light, that of course they are going to look harshly upon womxn involved in it. I see so much online about womxn who use cannabis as parents and when pregnant and how much backlash they get. Society loves to tear womxn down for their choices. My hope is that we can get people educated and (hopefully) erase the stigma attached to this plant. Even as a medicinal user, I see judgement sometimes. As I said earlier, cannabis makes me a better parent. If you ask any mom who partakes, she’s going to tell you something similar.
EM: What is your standpoint on the legal system and cannabis-related cases?
KH: This is something we need to turn around. As a child of the 1980s, I remember the D.A.R.E. presentations and cops coming to my school with bags of weed and telling us all the horrible things that would happen if we used it. Clearly that didn’t work, since I was a young teenager when I first started smoking weed. The damage that the War on Drugs [has] done is so deep. But I still have hope that we can educate people (or re-educate people). This is why organizations like The Last Prisoner Project are so important right now.
EM: Thoughts on the future of the cannabis/hemp industry?
KH: My hope is that we are entering a golden age of cannabis. With all of the work that people have been doing for years and so many states legalizing adult recreational use, I hope this helps turn the page. Federal legalization would be key in this, but we shall see where that goes (or how long it takes). I have to remain hopeful about it. In places where it’s legal, it’s a whole new world. Recently, I smoked my Pax vaporizer in Central Park. The last time I did that was when I was like 18 (and it was fully illegal). It felt weird, but also so good. And it totally helped my anxiety about being in a public space post-pandemic (or at least as a vaccinated person).
EM: Where do you see The Botanica Boutique in five years?
KH: I hope I can keep doing what I’m doing. I plan on, hopefully, adding a branch to my business to include a curated collection of THC products. My goal is to offer products that have higher CBD content or low doses of THC that you can mix with CBD products. I want to continue my journey of helping people feel better with the use of cannabis.
EM: How can people find The Botanica Boutique?
KH: We have a website Thebotanicaboutique.com, where you can browse products according to your taste or needs and order. I deliver for free locally and ship in the U.S. You can also reach out to me via the Contact Us page on the website. I absolutely love working with people one-on-one! You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask questions or just to chat about CBD and cannabis and how it can help you.