It’s time adults have an honest conversation about cannabis with the children in their lives. Author and advocate Susan Soares gives grown-ups the means to do that with her new children’s book, “What’s Growing in Grandma’s Garden.”
The lighthearted story is told from the perspective of a young boy who loves to garden alongside his grandma. Together, they learn about bugs, vegetables, and the special plants in grandma’s greenhouse.
Soares is actively raising the funds necessary to illustrate and publish “What’s Growing in Grandma’s Garden.” So far, she’s gathered just over half of her $10,000 goal.
Just Say KNOW
“What’s Growing in Grandma’s Garden,” Soares’ first book, is based on a true story.
“I am a grandmother,” she explained and is about to welcome her fifth grandchild. “One of my grandsons loves to be in the garden with me,” she said.
Throughout the story, the young boy learns about good bugs and bad bugs, that fresh vegetables taste better, and that it’s fun to garden.
“Grandma has a special plant in her greenhouse,” Soares explained, “we can look, but can’t touch it.”
The young boy wonders why grown-ups can have things that kids cannot.
“What’s Growing in Grandma’s Garden” is just as much a lesson for adults as it is for children.
The book teaches adults how to talk to children about “grown-up vs. kids issues,” Soares said. “Hopefully that will inspire conversations about cannabis and other grown-up things.”
“Knowledge is power,” she said. “In general, we don’t give children the credit they deserve.”
“When you hide something from kids… that attracts them to it. When you lie, you teach them they can’t believe [you],” she added.
She said that’s one of the biggest failures of the D.A.R.E. program — and why her foundation, C.A.R.E. mocks the anti-drug campaign motto with their own — “Just Say KNOW.”
“Kids KNOW, they aren’t stupid,” said Soares. It’s time for an honest conversation about cannabis.
Soares hopes to see the book in every retail cannabis outlet. “If you are a cannabis consumer, if you have children in your life — niece, nephews, students, etc. — you have an obligation to educate them on the whole cannabis issue.”
Gustav Davies, a Swiss-based artist and illustrator, created the book’s visuals. He said he chose to create the graphics for the story because “[Soares] has something to tell — I like that.”
Davies illustrations are mature yet whimsical. In order to achieve Soares’ vision, he explained, “I’m trying to work as unselfconsciously as possible.”
The advocate-turned-author said the inspiration for “What’s Growing in Grandma’s Garden,” came in 2017 after an appearance on the Southern California radio show, The Woody Show.
“Woody asked me, ‘how did you talk to your children about cannabis?’ I didn’t have a good answer,” she said, admitting she hid it. “I did not like that answer, it really bothered me.”
Soares asked others in and outside of the cannabis industry the same question. She found, “nobody talks their kids about cannabis, even now. Especially people in the industry.”
She wonders where the “what about the kids?” hysteria comes from. “We’re still waking up. Maybe we have PTSD from the drug war,” she said. “We are not owing it as we should.”
One moment stands out to Soares; it came after speaking with an unnamed canna-prenuer. “He said, ‘you are too early, people are not ready for a children’s book about cannabis’.” In the same breath, the source said his eight-year-old made the ‘best Manhattan he’s ever tried,’ Soares explained.
She knew then she needed to write a kid’s book that will “inspire grown-ups to have the conversation about cannabis.”
Cannabis as a Catalyst
Though Soares is a cannabis advocate, she was not always a proponent for the plant. In fact, she once called the cops on a group of teenagers smoking from a pipe in her (now, former) Chino Hills neighborhood.
At the time, Soares described herself as a devout Mormon, and leader in her Orange County church community.
“It took me five years to get out of the Mormon fog,” Soares said. Her relationship with cannabis was a catalyst.
Soares, a then “Conservative Republican,” suffered serious injuries during a church broom hockey game.
“I was about to score my third goal when someone tripped me,” she explained of the 1993 incident. She went head first into a cement cinder block, which knocked her unconscious, blew out her eardrum, and triggered a migraine that lasted two years.
The pain was intolerable. “I didn’t live a moment without pain,” she said, “I went to chiropractors, my Mormon doctor, Scripps’ Clinic… I was given more and more opioids, but found no relief.”
Coupled with the stress of a divorce, Soares felt desperate. “I contemplated suicide, but knew I had three kids relying on me.”
“My neighbor and I who garden together mentioned that cannabis could help my migraine situation,” she said.
Soares was scared — but eager to find relief. “I knew my community and my family would turn their backs on me if I used cannabis, but I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t have any other options left.”
She tried cannabis, and “after six weeks of use, my migraine was gone, never to return again,” she said.
Consequently, the “worst did happen,” Soares continued, “my family did not talk to me, and I was ostracized from the church community. But I needed to be alive for my kids.” Cannabis gave her the ability to do it.
From then on, she made it her life’s mission — starting after her own children reached adulthood — to educate others about the plant. She went on to found the nonprofit organization, Cannabis Awareness Rallies and Events (C.A.R.E.), which aims to educate people about cannabis.
5 Tips for Owning and Operating Successful Cannabis Dispensaries
The cannabis retail landscape has changed. Once regarded as somewhat of a novelty, legalization has allowed cannabis dispensaries to evolve into modern and innovative retail storefronts more akin to an Apple Store than the dark, secretive spaces they used to be. Some, like Shiny Bud, are proving to be leaders in the space, setting an exemplary standard of a contemporary cannabis retail experience.
Shiny Bud is one of Canada’s most successful dispensary chains. They pride themselves on offering customers a premium experience from the moment they enter, from a contemporary and inviting store design to highly trained staff, and of course, premium products.
Co-founder Alex Ledesma joined the cannabis industry when the Canadian government passed the Cannabis Act in 2018. She comes from a forward-thinking family of entrepreneurs, so the move to cannabis was an obvious next step.
“I saw an opportunity to be part of something big in Canada’s history, so we started following the industry, and applied for an application,” said Ledesma.
Shiny Bud opened its first dispensary in Toronto on February 14. Fast forward only a few months, and the company has opened the doors to its fifth location in a small town called Orleans, just outside of Ottawa.
“We have a pretty aggressive rollout,” said Ledesma. “Coming from a quick-service industry, we’re quite comfortable with builds and finding locations. We took our expertise from that and put it into cannabis. And it’s all completely within the family.”
Shiny Bud was awarded 75 dispensary licenses by the Canadian government. The company’s expansion plans include two more Ontario store openings this year, bringing the total number of store openings to seven. And they have no plans to slow down.
“We should be hitting 30 stores by the end of 2021. And we’re planning on maxing out to 75 stores allocated. When we stop to think about it, it can take our breath away.”
The constant march forward of legalization has created an ever-growing interest in dispensary ownership. Below, Ledesma offers up five pieces of advice for those looking to enter the cannabis game.
1. Have a Well-Trained Team That’s Focused on Customer Experience
As the industry is still so young, formal education in cannabis is still relatively scarce amongst prospective employees. For Shiny Bud, this presents an opportunity to reinforce one of their most important business objectives: provide cannabis education and training for their budtenders to pass on to their customers.
“Education is everything because the industry’s so new,” Ledesma said. “We truly believe that we’re an industry where we need to listen to our guests. This is one of the first things we teach our budtenders, along with providing a safe and educational experience for our customers in-store.”
For many customers, the biggest value in going to a dispensary is learning which products are best suited for a specific condition or effect, whether they’re seasoned cannabis consumers or newly curious.
“The goal for budtenders at Shiny Bud is to ensure customers are choosing the right product for them to provide a safe experience both in-store and at home,” Ledesma said.
2. Create a Guest Centric Environment
This goes without saying, but customer service is critical to the success of any retail operation. Ledesma attributes Shiny Bud’s success to the brand’s core vision of providing a “fast and friendly cannabis retail destination.”
“We strive to offer our customers a unique and memorable experience — this has stayed with us since day one,” Ledesma said. “When you walk into any of our Shiny Bud cannabis dispensaries, they’re bright, they’re big, and there’s a lot of education. The budtenders are dressed uniformly, and there’s personality — it’s not what people expect.”
Watching the change in customer demographic has been encouraging to Ledesma, who notes the increase in the 60+ demographic looking to add cannabis to their health and wellness, whether it be recreational, or to aid with a specific ailment.
“As a disclaimer, we always have to tell them that we’re not doctors and we can’t give them medical advice, so to start low and go slow,” Ledesma said. “It’s nice to see people like my mom, my dad, and grandparents come through the door, because you also know you’re helping break down the stigma.”
3. Stock the Best Inventory
With so many quality products now available, choosing which ones to bring to Shiny Bud is quite a lengthy process.
“We carry out a lot of research in terms of what’s new or trending, and what our customers are looking for in each location,” Ledesma said. “I wish I knew consumers’ buying preferences before our initial order was placed. We ended up buying too much!”
“We also use recommendations from our team members, our budtenders, and our customers. A lot of times we bring in representatives of the licensed producers to educate our budtenders about the products we’re selling.”
The three most popular purchases across three Shiny Bud locations are dried flower, vapes, and pre-rolls. “Our most frequently asked question is, ‘what is your highest THC or CBD?’” Ledesma said.
4. Have a Great Location
The age-old proverb of “location, location, location” rings true in the cannabis industry, too. Finding the right real estate is arguably the most important part of retail success. Plus, because of the industry’s prohibition history and the nature of the products being sold, it’s important to find understanding landlords.
“Initially, landlords have said to us, ‘absolutely not, we will not entertain the idea of having a cannabis retailer here,’ so I invite them to take a look at one of our dispensaries so they can see the vision of what and who we are as a company and as an industry.”
5. Ensure Your Cannabis Dispensaries Connect with the Community
Dispensaries are already major focal points in their communities. For Ledesma, giving back and helping break down old stigmas related to cannabis is a top priority.
Shiny Bud is in the process of launching a collaboration with Tsaichedelic to create a line of tie-dyed tees and other merchandise. The proceeds will go towards supporting Cannabis Amnesty projects, like providing legal counsel to get those with criminal records over minor cannabis charges expunged.
“Being a woman and a person of color in the cannabis space, I really believe in the fact that it needs to be the same playing fields for everybody,” Ledesma said. “Teaming up with Cannabis Amnesty just felt right.”
With the regulated cannabis market still so new, it’s important that business owners are able to adapt to changes and weather the ever-changing landscape of cannabis and the regulations.
“It’s ever-changing, so we’re constantly learning and growing from it,” Ledesma said. “Regulations are always changing, so being fluid helps a lot.”
Look for Shiny Bud cannabis dispensaries in Canada and keep an eye out for their expansion into America in 2021.
Gwyneth Paltrow and a Slew of Celebs Invest in ‘Social Tonic’ Brand, Cann
Gwyneth Paltrow is one of several high-profile celebrities investing in cannabis-infused beverage company, Cann.
Rebel Wilson, Ruby Rose, Darren Criss, Tove Lo, Casey Neistat, former NBA star Baron Davis and Bre-Z have also invested in the company.
The actress and Goop CEO and founder calls cannabis a “hero ingredient of the future” for wellness and says she was drawn to Cann’s drinks, which are infused with small doses of THC and CBD, as an appealing alternative to alcohol.
“There’s a whole sober-curious movement that’s going on and the cannabis-curious movement that’s going on, this is kind of at the intersection of those things in a way,” said Paltrow.
Cann is not the health and wellness moguls’ first cannabis investment. Paltrow admitted that while she’s not a big cannabis user personally, she acknowledges its “amazing medicinal qualities.”
“There’s no reason why alcohol should be so much easier to purchase than Cann, and I’m confident the founders will lead the charge in finding ways to integrate it into the same purchasing channels and drinking environments,” she said via a news release.
Cann founder Luke Anderson called the comments made by Gwyneth Paltrow “a sign that Cann (and microdose beverages more broadly) are a viable answer to that very common consumer pain point.”
He added that when people think of Paltrow, “they don’t think of ‘weed’ – they think of cutting-edge solutions for today’s health and wellness needs.”
Cann has positioned itself as a “healthy” and hangover-free alternative to alcohol. Most of Cann’s “social tonics” contain roughly 30 calories and are “microdosed” with 2 milligrams of THC and 4 milligrams of CBD. A recently introduced Pineapple Jalapeño flavor contains 50 calories and 5 milligrams of THC.
Earlier this year, Cann secured $5 million in funding as part of the company’s 2020 production and distribution expansion plans for 2020.
According to TechCrunch, the beverage startup has sold 150,000 cans, which retail for $4 each, since last May. Cann products are available at just 60 dispensaries in California, and online via the Eaze cannabis marketplace, making the $600,000 in revenue the company generated in less than a year even more impressive.
Miss Marijuana: Canadian Beauty Queen Alyssa Boston Is on a Mission to End Stigmas
Alyssa Boston is a woman on a mission. The 24-year-old Canadian beauty queen is using her platform to start a conversation on ending stigmas around mental illness, competing in pageants — and cannabis.
While she doesn’t actually smoke weed, Canada’s crowned Miss Universe caused a media uproar when she wore a sparkling cannabis-inspired look during the 2019 Miss Universe competition in Atlanta, Georgia.
Cannabis Aficionado spoke to her about breaking stigmas, social media and of course, that costume.
CA: How was your Miss Universe experience?
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