LGBTQ Entrepreneurs Find Acceptance in the Cannabis Industry

in Culture

When HollyWeed Manufacturing & Extracts Inc. announced a deal to provide extraction services to international cannabis powerhouse Canopy Growth last month, it wasn’t just a victory for British Columbia parent company Hollyweed North Cannabis—it was also an indication of the impact that LGBTQ entrepreneurs are having on the industry. HollyWeed is run by founder and CEO Renee Gagnon, a transgender woman who is a pioneer in the Canadian cannabis industry.
Gagnon was working in IT when the Canadian government announced in a 2012 press release that it was exploring the commercialization of medical marijuana.
“I felt my entire life click into place and said ‘yes, I must do this!’ And I had a business plan on their desk four hours later,” she remembers.
With no program yet in place, Gagnon had perhaps jumped the gun a bit. But she had positioned herself well and the company she founded, Thunderbird Biomedical (later Emerald Health Therapeutics) was one of four firms in the initial research and development program for Canadian medical cannabis.
“It was during my time with Emerald, just after we went public, that I came out,” Gagnon said in a phone interview with High Times. “And I came out about six months ahead of Caitlin [Jenner], and that was complicated. Caitlin explained it to everyone and then everyone was like, ‘Oh, yeah, now I get it.’ But six months earlier it was ‘What?! Are you kidding?’”
Although she says that the cannabis industry is now much more inclusive and accepting of LGBTQ people, after coming out, concern at Emerald about the impact her transition might have on courting investors led Gagnon to step aside after hiring another woman as the new CEO.
“It was a very hard thing. For me, it was a personal decision; it shouldn’t dramatically affect …

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Author: A.J. Herrington / High Times

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