Woman in Weed – Eliza Ford

This fall issue of High! Canada Magazine Issue #47 – September 2019 – brings you hip hop superstar Peter Jackson on the cover and an exclusive interview with Peter by Tammi Stanhope on cannabis inside. This issue also talks about cannabis and Endometriosis, a look at Gage Cannabis, we speak to Medicinal My Way with Rob Fridd and Shalynn Hamilton, Patient stories with Karli Thiessen and Miranda Hawriliw, Women in Weed features Kristen McRobie from Endometriosis & Me and Eliza Ford from the Cannabis Living Expo, recipes and more…

WOMEN IN WEED – ELIZA FORD

If you are familiar with the Cannabis Living Expo than you know who Eliza Ford is. If you don’t and you work within the Canadian cannabis conference or expo community, you really should. Eliza is the woman behind this amazing educational event. We were so very excited to have her join the many amazing Women in Weed that we have featured here in High! Canada Magazine over the years. Eliza? thank you so much for talking to us about your life within the cannabis space in Canada and abroad.

Tell us, how did you get involved in the cannabis industry and what led you into career within the Canadian cannabis industry? Essentially, what is your particular cannabis industry entry point origin story?

My introduction to cannabis began back on a warm summer day in 1978 with my two girlfriends. I can still remember where we were, what we were wearing and what it felt like! That experience is so deeply ingrained into my being. But that’s not really the question I guess…

My journey into the cannabis industry was not exactly a direct line that led me to where I am today. A few years ago, I would not have predicted this! But as I thought about this question, I realized that there were a set of converging circumstances that could have taken me nowhere else. My professional career has always been in event production and management, both from the venue side and the production side and while this professional aspect of my life was progressing along, I had this connection with cannabis in my personal life that was completely removed from it. And due to the stigma of cannabis use and its illegality I had to keep these two sides apart.

In late 2017 with the approach of cannabis legalization there was an opportunity to intertwine the two sides of my life. So, as many people in life might approach a metaphorical ‘fork’ in the road where they must choose one way or the other, I felt like it was the opposite for me because these two separate paths converged perfectly into one! I saw the Cannabis Living Expo as a way to use my event production experiences to create a show where I could connect people hungry for information and education with experts from the different facets of the cannabis industry.

Beyond education, my other goal is to help eradicate the stigma and normalize the use of this wonderful, beneficial plant. Enjoying cannabis should be seen as a sensory experience on par with fine wine or scotch. And it should be universally accepted for the medical benefits it provides.

Have you encountered any challenges or adversity working in the cannabis space?

Oh, yes! The first challenge we faced was launching a compliant consumer cannabis event before it was legal, and nobody knew when legalization would occur! It was imperative to our success that the event take place after legalization. Rumours pointed to July or August of 2018, but we reasoned that government moves slowly so in late 2017, one year ahead of time, we booked the venue for October 26 – 28, 2018. And we were on the right side of history by 9 days!

It was difficult to create something out of nothing – there was no legal consumer side to the industry. There were some very successful business to business events taking place that we attended, hoping to talk to people about our vision for a consumer-facing show. But there was some understandable skepticism because we were a first-time event in a brand-new field of consumerism.

We also encountered, and still encounter, a bit of resistance from within the industry. In a nascent industry the established, highly valued corporations are the ones that can most afford to exhibit and support educational events like ours. But we still hear from some that we are too recreationally focused. It is extremely difficult to build an event that welcomes and serves the needs of both the traditional ‘cannabis community’ and the corporate entities…….we should all remember that the “cannabis community” are some of the best educators.

And as far as the ‘stigma’ goes, launching the event and outing ourselves to our own social circle as cannabis users has cost us some friends. But it has gained us many, many more!

How did you move past these challenges?

By having great partners! I would name names here, but I’m afraid I would leave someone out and every exhibitor deserves our heartfelt thanks!

From January 1, 2018 until the event opened on October 26 we attended every cannabis event we could across the country in an effort to meet as many industry and community people that we could…..learning about new products, edibles, growing, medical benefits and the challenges everyone was facing. Along the way we made a lot of friends and gained many supporters of our event – people that understood our vision and wanted to share in it.

We believed in them, they believed in us, and we made some great things happen! With the support of our partners we were able to open Canada’s first legal cannabis consumption lounge in our event, we had Canada’s first walk-in cannabis clinic to service patients with no family doctor, and we had instructional seminars and discussion panels every day on our main stage. All these features were designed to educate, inform, and enhance the experience of the cannabis consumer.

Advice for other women entering or thinking about entering the cannabis space?

My advice for other women considering entering the cannabis industry would be to stick to your vision. People need to believe that you believe in yourself! Don’t compromise your ideals or your principles for short-term gains. Hard work and a solid business plan will get you through.

My other piece of advice to women would be to support other women in the industry – stick together! As a woman owner of a business I am always trying to help out other women entrepreneurs by offering unique opportunities at the event. I know how hard it can be, I know the anxiety…..women entrepreneurs in cannabis need to know that they have sisters out there who will help them and support them when they start out.

Last question – What are three things that you think everyone needs?

I think everyone needs a passion – an inner driving force that propels you toward success and fulfillment in your chosen field. A ‘raison d’etre’ that winds its way through your consciousness.

I think everyone needs a support network – friends or family that unquestionably believe in you, carry the load a little when times are heavy, and share the accomplishments along the way.

And lastly, I think everyone needs a dog like my good boy Maxx. Ever loyal, affectionate, and the absolute best greeting every time you come home!