From Cannabis Activist To Cannabis CEO

"It’s not about the money, it’s about enjoying what you do every day and working with clients with integrity that match our values."

Friends,

Long before there was a cannabis industry, there was a cannabis community. 

The common denominator within this community was each individual's passion for providing greater access to cannabis; in spite of the constant threat of incarceration, they refused to take no for an answer.

If not for these early pioneers, the cannabis industry we know today simply wouldn’t exist as it was their refusal to accept the status quo that resulted in the legislative changes we are now seeing sweep the world today.

For today’s edition of Four PM I had the pleasure of sitting down with Lisa Campbell, who is no stranger to civil disobedience for the cause of providing Canadians with greater access to cannabis. 

Lisa Campbell is the former Chair of Women Grow Toronto and is currently the Chief Executive Officer for Mercari Agency

What motivated you to join the cannabis industry? 

It was 2014 when I took a leap into the cannabis industry.

At the time I was working in Northern Alberta for the McMurray Métis as a recent environmental studies graduate, while moonlighting as a part-time Outreach Coordinator for Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

I attended and organized so many incredibly inspiring conferences on legalizing and regulating all drugs, as well as traveling to the UN in NYC and Vienna.

With cannabis on the cusp of being legalized, I decided to head home and focus on starting a new cannabis business. At the time, Women Grow was just starting, so I joined hands with other women entrepreneurs to get a chapter started in Toronto. 

It was around this time I began moving from organizing community educational events to starting cannabis farmers’ markets featuring all of the cannabis products that weren't available in the medical market at the time, studying past case law to find the loopholes that would allow us to provide greater access to all forms of cannabis.

As the number of attendees at the farmers market rose to over a thousand people per event the risks got even higher, and I put the farmers market on pause. Around six months before adult-use legalization, I dropped the mic and joined my family wine and spirit business to start a cannabis subsidiary.

Fast-forward to year three of cannabis legalization and we have helped countless brands come to market across Canada and in January we ended up selling our wine and spirit parent company, going fully into cannabis as a family-owned company. 

What's been the most important lesson you've learned during your career in the cannabis industry?

Never give up hope, and know your value.

It brings me enormous pleasure to bring value to my clients—coaching them on the regulations, available revenue streams, and the fastest routes to market with some of the biggest grey market players finally arriving back on cannabis retailers’ shelves.

I’m proud to have worked with legacy growers and hash makers since the dawn of legalization. It’s an honour to tell their stories, representing the same legacy quality that consumers crave.

It was a pleasure to launch Color Cannabis in Western Canada while Derek Pedro was the Master Grower at WeedMD, and I’m super excited to be launching Mood Ring, with Neptune Wellness’ cannabis sommelier José Dominguez.

My biggest learning lesson this year is opportunity cost—focusing on the best opportunities and not being distracted by projects that don’t fit into my business model or working with clients who don’t value or services.

This year was the first year I said no to money and let go of the things that didn’t serve me or my business. It’s not about the money, it’s about enjoying what you do every day and working with clients with integrity that match our values

(📸 / Mood Ring)

As you look to the future of the cannabis industry, what has you most excited to be part of this industry?

I’m excited about the craft cannabis revolution on the horizon and I’m also super stoked for the craft beverage market with Mercari launching BRZY—the very first sparkling CBD beverage produced by a micro cannabis producer in early 2021. 

We are looking forward to the diversity of cannabis genetics emerging and the integration of even more legacy players into the legal market with an increased focus on sustainability, as consumers look beyond THC and ask for clean cannabis.

If you could change one thing about the cannabis industry what would it be, and why? 

I wish that Canada placed more of a focus on social equity programs both federally and provincially. Although there’s an Indigenous stream for licensing and Indigenous retail licenses in Ontario and BC there aren’t any programs that exist for others who have been impacted by the war on drugs.

The City of Toronto voted in favor of a motion that municipal tax dollars generated from legalization would be provided to priority neighborhoods, however, we are still patiently waiting on any announcements on whether this actually happened, the amount that was raised, and exactly how much went to each social equity program. 

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