Weed Queens! Please welcome our guest Savina Monet, Co-Founder of the Cannabis Workers Coalition and a graphic designer working with women and people of color-owned companies in the cannabis industry. I’m super excited to share this interview with you as Savina discusses her journey in this industry and shares advice on how to have a successful career in the weed world. Read more about Savina and her awesome work in the interview below.
How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I am a freelance graphic designer, collage artist, and co-founder of the Cannabis Workers Coalition.
What is your nonprofit about? What do you guys do?
Cannabis Workers Coalition is a community-based worker center that supports and advocates for cannabis workers in the United States. We are happy to assist workers with campaigns against unethical employment practices, share resources to help them get back on their feet, and hold space for workers that have been traumatized on the job during our Cannabis Workers Support Group.
What’s your favorite part about your job? Least favorite?
I love meeting the people that work in cannabis. Almost everyone I talk to has a story about how the plant changed their lives and they truly believe in protecting the healing power of the plant. My least favorite part of the job, of course, is being reminded every day through employee grievances that we still have a lot of work to do to make this industry the same as the one we were dreaming about when legalization first rolled around.
What inspired you to start your nonprofit and how did you get started?
We started in the middle of the pandemic, August of 2020. It was a direct response to what we heard from budtenders and field workers, which was that many employers didn’t see COVID-19 as a real threat. So when we launched we started making weekly Know Your Rights reels to educate cannabis workers about what they can do on the job and how their employer has the responsibility to protect them.
What is your vision and mission for the Cannabis Workers Coalition?
Oh wow, you’re talking to the visionary here. My big dream is that we can have local CWC chapters all around the nation that will partner with local community based organizations to help develop the legal cannabis industry and support workers in the process.
What were you doing before you started the Cannabis Workers Coalition?
I was focused solely on my graphic design work. 2020 was a very politically motivating year for me, and I’m sure for a lot of us. I wanted to use my skills as a graphic designer to put together infographics that helped explain the inequity in cannabis. My work caught the eyes of Cannaclusive where I joined their volunteer team to help build the first Accountability List.
How did that influence what you do?
Working with the amazing women at Cannaclusive really taught me how to take power back into my own hands. I didn’t have to be some bureaucrat to share my opinion about what was going on in my community around me. That’s when I started showing up to City Council meetings, questioning decision makers in my local cannabis industry, and brushing up on my labor law.
How did you learn the skills to start and run a successful business?
I’ve been very lucky to be in positions where I’ve worked closely with small business owners and was able to learn how to manage and run their business. Most of my skills were learned while working for a small software company where there were literally three people on the payroll and I was one of them. I had to wear multiple hats acting as the web developer, graphic designer, IT support, administrative assistant, sales, account manager and more. Then, I worked as a personal assistant to an artist that made six-figures selling through their Etsy shop. Every day when I would clock in it wouldn’t feel just like a job. I felt like I was getting paid to learn how to make the moves that made these business owners so successful. When you don’t have a traditional schooling background, you have to take every opportunity as a learning experience.
What factors have contributed towards your path of success?
I’m sure being an attractive, light-skinned, biracial woman in an era of white guilt has helped. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t done enough to get to the position that I’m in now. It’s the one thing that keeps pushing me to do more.
Did you ever expect a career in the cannabis space?
Not in the least bit. I never knew what I wanted to do in life, all I knew was that I wanted to be my own boss and make a good living. Once legalization occurred, I was still hesitant to join because of the hefty license fee (in Oregon you have to pay $100 to get your Marijuana Handlers license) and lack of experience. Instead, I would hang out at my local NORML meetings and get to know some of the trailblazers that helped get us to where we are now. After enough conversation, they made it clear that many businesses will need graphic design support in this new space and I decided to go for it.
Were your family and friends supportive of your venture?
Oh yes, I am lucky to have been born into a family that is comfortable with cannabis.
What has your personal experience with cannabis been?
Cannabis is something that has been in my family for generations. It started with my great-grandparents growing it on their property in Arizona. My great-grandmother was obsessed with the “alien-like flowers” it produced. Funny enough, my young mother at the time knew exactly what to do with the crops and would often sneak clippings to later enjoy with friends. Growing up, my family had faced a lot of trauma, so it was natural for members of my family to turn to smoking weed to ease their pains instead of pricey prescription drugs.
Did you ever feel like you weren’t taken seriously because you are a woman?
All the time. Especially in the beginning of legalization in Oregon when there were mostly old white men who were doing deals. There were countless times when I would get business leads only to find out that they were more interested in taking me out on a date than contracting my professional services. It happened so much that I finally wrote on my website that I would only work with women-owned businesses and that is when my career really took off.
How do you think your involvement in this industry is going to positively impact your community?
If my actions could have any lasting impact, I would hope that they would be on labor rights in the cannabis industry. Traditionally, agricultural industries are full of inequitable practices and racist decision makers, but we have the opportunity to steer cannabis into a new direction. My hope is that through legislation and community accountability we can make cannabis the exemplary industry for other lines of work.
What’s the biggest change you want to see in the cannabis industry?
I would like to see businesses starting with clear intentions instead of acting as a cash-grab. When businesses do not have a clear motivation for starting we start to see issues in the foundation like a lack of employee training, lack of formal business knowledge, or little to no knowledge of safety procedures or occupational hazards that lead to the business becoming an unsafe working environment.
Now that cannabis is legal, what excites you most and what worries you the most?
I’m excited for the opportunity to shape this industry differently than the ones before. We haven’t had a new industry pop up since the tech boom in the late 90’s. That being said, knowing that we are in a capitalist economy, my biggest worry is that cannabis will be riddled with the same problems as all the others.
What would be your best piece of advice for fellow women looking to pursue the cannabis industry?
Do it. Now is the time to jump in feet first before federal legalization comes around and everyone wants a piece of the pie.
What would you consider to be the most effective way or initial steps of breaking down barriers and ceilings to pave this path for women in the industry?
Through mentorship and / or raising capital for female entrepreneurs. We can’t gate keep all the industry secrets if we want to make a difference. Instead, we need to share the steps we took to get into the successful positions we are in now.
Do you have any suggestions on how we can help normalize cannabis?
Start the conversation. Instead of sharing your favorite cocktails with friends, share your favorite strains and tell them why. We have to keep showing up in these spaces where people were previously uncomfortable with the idea of cannabis and say, “It’s not that bad”.
Where can we reach you? (IG/ Twitter handle and or email)
Name 4 of your favorite women in weed that you’d like to give a shout out too. What do they do and where can we reach them?
Susie Plascencia – Chingona that owns MOTA Glass and co-founded the Minorities for Oversight, Transparency, and Accountability (MOTA) Org with me.
Yogi Maharaj – Founder of Luv Kush Co and amazing woman reconnecting the history of cannabis and the Desi diaspora.
Felicia Carbajal – Another badass lady organizer and President of the Social Impact Center in Los Angeles.
Mss Oregon – Founder of Diversify Portland and the first National Cannabis Diversity Awareness Convention.
Key Takeaways from Savina Monet:
- Start the conversation. Instead of sharing your favorite cocktails with friends, share your favorite strains and tell them why.
- We can’t gate keep all the industry secrets if we want to make a difference. Instead, we need to share the steps we took to get into the successful positions we are in now.
- Do it. Now is the time to jump in feet first before federal legalization comes around and everyone wants a piece of the pie.
- My hope is that through legislation and community accountability we can make cannabis the exemplary industry for other lines of work.
Huge shout out and big thank you to Savina Monet for taking the time to chat about her experiences as a female entrepreneur and executive in a male dominated industry, for giving us great advice and tips on how to be successful in the weed world and for shouting out other dope Weed Queens!