Creating Balance with Cutting Edge Cannabis
When Mariellen Jurkovich hopped in a Volkswagen van and headed up the California coast, she couldn’t have imagined what lay ahead. She was moving to a vastly different place than her previous home in San Diego. At the time, Humboldt County was a bastion for alternative living. Many who were active in the counterculture movement of the 1960s were coming to places like Humboldt to live off grid, escape mainstream America, and get back to a simpler way of life.
The steep and rugged terrain with heavily wooded redwood forests offered a perfect place to disappear. It allowed those who came, to live their life the way they wished. This unique blend of isolation and freedom also gave rise to private forms of entrepreneurialism; most notably, the rise of the Emerald Triangle’s cannabis industry.
Mariellen, a woman’s libber and advocate of equal rights, wasn’t involved in the cannabis industry during this time. Raising children, she opted for more conventional work.
Mariellen began to establish a reputation as a successful businesswoman; She worked in banking and real estate, and became involved in her children’s education as a school board member. She entered fields traditionally dominated by men, and battled antiquated gender norms while gaining respect in the community.
In the late 90s, after the groundbreaking passage of Proposition 215 which legalized medical Marijuana in California, Mariellen was asked to manage the Humboldt Patient Resource Center (HPRC).
Founded in 1999 in Arcata, California, the HPRC was little more than a vision at the time. When the three original founders (all men) whittled down to one, the collective needed help. The HPRC needed a strong business-savvy leader, one who’d show that medical marijuana could be a legitimate part of the community.
In 2004, Mariellen became director of the HPRC.
At first she knew nothing about cannabis. She had never even seen a cannabis plant. Even as a businesswoman, there was a learning curve; Not just on the business side, but as she put it, “the fact that working in the cannabis industry doesn’t align with other businesses in terms of having trouble with banking and not being viewed as a real business,” she added, “the early years were exceptionally difficult for cannabis businesses.”
Twelve years later, it’s been a tough road for Mariellen and the HPRC, but all in all she feels it’s been an amazing journey. The HPRC is now a model business – marijuana or otherwise. The collective was awarded business of the year (2015) by the city of Arcata, and continues to please local officials and patients alike.
For Mariellen, it’s all about the patients.
Specifically, Mariellen is most concerned with patient wellness. She is proud of the collective’s meticulous testing and emphasis on education. She models the HPRC in the same way as your local food cooperative. As she stated, “it’s like when you go to [a] co-op, you know things are going to be organic and clean, and the people that work there will know a lot about their products.”
Her employees go through a number of certification programs, she explains, “[they] are very knowledgeable about cannabis… they can take products and fit them into the needs of individual patients.”
She’s come to admire the versatility of cannabis. Many different products can be created for many different applications. Patients with a wide range of needs can find cannabis products that work for them. This is why it’s paramount for her to continuously educate her staff.
When asked about testing, Mariellen was keen to point out the collective’s cutting-edge techniques. Not only does the HPRC test all their products for THC, CBD, pesticides, and mold, they’re also beginning to analyze the terpene profiles of their flowers and concentrates.
The terpenes in different strains of cannabis have an “entourage effect.” Various terpenes interact with individuals in different ways. Some terpenes correspond with a cerebral effect while others elicit a restful response. It’s this testing, in combination with the education of her employee’s, that sets the HPRC apart.
Embattled, highly regarded, and always evolving, the HPRC is at the forefront of California’s newly regulated cannabis industry and has no plans of slowing down. Mariellen is planning to open a larger cultivation area in order to select strains that exude desirable CBD and terpene profiles not grown by other providers. Additionally, she needs more space so patients can speak with employees in private while obtaining their medicinal cannabis. She envisions multiple, identical rooms, much like a clinic, where patients can speak privately with employees.
Beyond cannabis, Mariellen has always dreamed of opening a wellness center. “A wellness center encompasses all of your health” as she put it. Cannabis is an exceptional plant, but only one piece of a healthy lifestyle. This is why it’s important for her to open a center where cannabis can be integrated with other herbs and therapeutic practices such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, and diet.
In Mariellen’s vision, her wellness center would take the holistic approach that the HPRC takes towards cannabis and apply it to one’s life in general. The wellness center would work with people to substitute toxic ways of coping with ailments, and replace those with holistic health management solutions. For women specifically, Mariellen wants to make a space available where a multitude of professionals from various health and wellness backgrounds can provide information. She feels that women are traditionally given health information from one source – their doctor. She wants to make information about alternative options more available.
With that said, Mariellen is not against traditional forms of medicine. The wellness center would empower members with educational tools so they can create their own program and achieve their personal goals. Yoga at lunch, workshops, tearoom lectures and various educational tools would make this possible. Currently she is looking at various locations in Eureka, California where she feels there is a need. When asked specifically about her thoughts on women in the cannabis industry, Mariellen told me the cannabis industry has been historically male dominated.
Only recently has she begun to see a change; Now, more women are bringing in cannabis flowers and products, even distributing for larger collectives.
She explained that women bring a different mindset to cannabis and it’s important to make available a balance of products provided by both men and women.
As a women’s libber, Mariellen has always been a champion of women’s issues. She has always worked in male dominated fields, so when she picked up a recent issue of the Emerald Magazine featuring cannabis products created by Whoopi Goldberg and Maya Elisabeth, a light bulb went off. She got excited about products specifically marketed toward women.
After reading the article, she researched all the brands she could find that were being marketed explicitly to women. She went out and got samples of all the products she could get her hands on. She then began to test each product using HPRC’s stringent standards.
Meanwhile she started to educate and train her staff on women’s issues and the applications of the new products she found. She hired Naomi Atkinson to run her newly created women’s division – a division now offering the women’s products that met HPRC’s standards.
She confided, “Although all cannabis would probably help with women’s conditions… it is not being marketed in ways that are accessible to women.” New products add attractive botanicals and oils that have not typically been seen in the basic products offered over
the past several years. Women make up half the population, so supplying products geared toward women is mandatory.
Mariellen is even thinking local.
During her research she was pleased to find an array of cannabis products made specifically for women, however she became concerned about the lack of locally produced goods. Most of the products came from urban areas south of the Emerald Triangle.
She brought this information to a newly formed, and local women’s cannabis think tank. The group, called Women Cultivating Community, is addressing the issue. They have come up with a business plan and are beginning to create a line of products. The idea is that the Emerald Triangle, as an epicenter of cannabis cultivation, should have a local option in the unfilled market for cannabis products geared toward women.
In addition to product creation, marketing, and branding, Mariellen noticed there was a lack of supply of many of the products she obtained. She was told the women who made the products did not have adequate space to produce their goods. To address this problem, Mariellen decided to create a space where cannabis products can be produced, stored, and distributed; a one-stop shop. She is eyeing the cannabis innovation zone in Arcata for this endeavor.
Always forward thinking and hard at work, Mariellen has confronted outdated norms her entire career. Whether gender norms or stigma surrounding cannabis, her undaunted focus on community has shown through. As California and the Emerald Triangle’s cannabis industry moves into the light, there is no one more qualified to lead the way.
However she would not think of herself as an embattled leader, she’d simply tell you that talented people deserve a chance.
Mariellen is truly a significant figure. An advocate, businesswoman, and mother to all; her goals are remarkably altruistic – far from the egocentric norms that have dominated the industry over the past decade.
If you’d like to check out the products Mariellen has selected to be a part of her newly formed Women’s Division, head down to the HPRC in Arcata, California. A well-qualified and knowledgeable staff will greet you… and if you’re lucky, you might be able to meet Mariellen yourself.
For more information, visit HPRCarcata.com
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