Advocacy Q + A with Diane Czarkowski
Diane is a cannabis industry veteran who has been a leading entrepreneur, investor, and advocate since industry inception. As a Founding Partner of Canna Advisors and co-owner of one of the first dispensary and cultivation facilities in Colorado, she has extensive industry knowledge and a unique perspective on why advocacy is such an important part of building an industry.
Why is advocacy so critical for the cannabis industry?
So many people have been misinformed about cannabis, and we have to keep educating people about the truth. There are many people who don’t know about the history of cannabis and have been fed a bunch of propaganda for a long time. People don’t know our government has two patents on cannabis plant compounds, even though current scheduling indicates that it contains no medical properties. The current scheduling also prohibits federal medical research to be done, so a lot of people also aren’t aware of the vast array of medical benefits cannabis provides as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. There is also a huge social justice aspect that goes along with cannabis advocacy in making people aware of how the War on Drugs has disproportionately affected those with low income and people of color, who are incarcerated at a much higher rate for cannabis consumption than caucasian people, even though cannabis usage is about the same.
How did your involvement in cannabis advocacy start?
I got an appreciation for how cannabis works as medicine from meeting our dispensary patients. Many would drive hours to not only get their medicine but also hang out at Boulder Kind Care because it was a safe place to talk openly about their problems and how cannabis usage helps in a variety of ways. Many had families who were unsupportive, so BKC became their community of support. This safe space led to patients sharing their life-changing experiences that I still remember to this day, and these stories launched us from being cannabis enthusiasts to becoming cannabis advocates.
The NCIA Lobby Days event is coming up soon, and you’ve been every year since the first trip in 2012. What are some of your fondest memories of past Lobby Days?
I love how it was only 12 people back in 2012 for the very first year. Not only was it a small group, but it was also all women who were in the industry. We wanted our government representatives to see that we were business owners, mothers, and advocates, and that we represented the real cannabis industry. We were there to shake up the stereotype, have our unique stories heard, and open their minds about who is involved and uses cannabis.
Another memorable highlight was at last year’s Lobby Days when I met Senator Elizabeth Warren. I got the chance to present her with Breaking the Grass Ceiling, a biographical collection of stories featuring myself and other pioneering women of the cannabis industry.
What are you looking forward to about Lobby Days this year?
Jay is going with me this year for the first time. I can’t wait for him to finally get the whole experience. I brought Tyler with me last year, so it almost feels like it is becoming a family thing. There will also be more people this year than ever before, and it is inspiring to see how it has grown from a small group of 12 to over 250 strong in such a short time.
How can people get involved on the local, state, and national levels for cannabis advocacy?
I would advise those who are passionate about advocacy to figure out what specific issue speaks and resonates with you. Think about what you want to change and talk about why it needs to happen. Whether that’s overall medical health education, the positive effects of CBD, improving pet health with cannabis, social justice, or even hemp, pick a focus for your cause. When you figure out what you want to focus on, call or email your local legislators. Make sure you tell them the truths you believe in and that the misinformation that has been spread about cannabis has been proven to be untrue. Factual, compelling, and non-argumentative comments make the most impact on a personal level.
A lot has been said about cannabis advocacy. What are some issues that are not talked about as much that you feel should get some spotlight?
I would say that there is a perception in states where cannabis is legal that there is not much more work to be done and everything is great because progress is being made. But, there are still so many things that need to be amended. For example, there are still severe ramifications for a family that is trying to medicate a child with medical marijuana. It is still a huge risk to do this because if the family is reported, the child could be put into foster care and the parents could serve jail time. Laws and regulations need to be put in place to protect these families who are just trying to help their sick children find relief.
Learn more about Canna Advisors’ advocacy leadership efforts here.
Hear Diane & Jay talk about advocacy and education for the cannabis industry.