Irie Selkirk, a market actuator for Emblem and long-time cannabis patient advocate, spoke with Daily Hive about her career and how women can make a name for themselves in the emerging legal cannabis market.
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A career in cannabis
Selkirk grew up in a cannabis-positive environment, and pursuing a career in the industry was an obvious choice for the entrepreneur.
About 10 years ago, when her daughter’s father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, “we started looking at cannabis as more of a medicine as opposed to a recreational substance.”
“My social activism came from a patient advocacy point. I started looking through and navigating the legal system, which snowballed when legal cannabis became part of the national conversation.”
Selkirk says it was an “organic evolution into a patient advocacy role working with other people who were just trying to understand the same system that I had navigated myself.”
“I took that advocacy, joined it with some of my business skills and life skills and had a startup. That startup led to me working at Emblem in medical outreach and moving over to their Adult Use Department.”
As a cannabis market actuator, Selkirk focuses on strategy, education, and influence. She pursues strategic partners and relationships in accordance with her “long-term vision of what I’d like legal cannabis to look like.”
Selkirk believes that education is key when comes to business, consumers, and patients.
“People need to have an understanding of what’s legal,” says Selkirk. “There’s a lot of confusion as far as what’s legal, what are the dispensaries, what’s it going to look like?
“It’s our job in the industry to make sure those that aren’t inside the cannabis circle actually know what’s legal so they are safe, and take that safety to the next step with understanding the basics, call it cannabis 101.”
Education-based marketing and partnering with companies who work with social and education pieces are paramount to Selkirk’s vision.
Health & safety
Understanding the laws around cannabis and consumption is important, as is knowing how to use cannabis safely and effectively, especially for medicinal users.
“Patients should have strong communication with their healthcare practitioners on their medical cannabis use so they can track their journey.”
Selkirk notes that medical use “gets a little more minute” in terms of consumption methods, onset times, duration, and titration, “but that’s where the health care practitioner support comes in.”
She hopes to see standardized and consistent dosing for medical patients, as well as an emphasis on whole plant extraction.
When asked about possible conflicts between recreational and medicinal cannabis markets, Selkirk says “the government has framed medical cannabis with taxation and the rush to adult use could potentially harm patients if they can’t afford medicine or don’t have access to supply.”
Women and weed
Canada’s current legal cannabis market has been criticized for its lack of female representation at the executive level.
“There is a cannabis knowledge deficit that exists in this industry and I think women bring a lot to the table. It’s up to other women who are currently in the industry to reserve a seat for them there and for men to do that as well. Not only champion the women that are at their table right now but to reserve more seats for women so that we have more equity on boards and executive suites.”
Selkirk also believes that women “need to gain equity and long-term stability in the companies they are involved in, particularly startups. It’s important to have good allies who get this. Establish a mentorship in those allies but also the framework to utilize that through sponsorship.”
“There is a great opportunity as the industry builds, everyone is looking for a way to tap into the female consumer, trying to harness the purchasing power of women, and looking at women as a normalization point. Tapping into female consumers, we have to have women leading the conversation to cannabis as it pertains to them.”
Selkirk says that we “need to reach a point where we don’t need women panels and we actually just have equal representation of experts in these panels. I think getting the conversation started in this way is the first step.”
Selkirk will be hosting the RNMKR .Talks Women TrailBlazers panel in Toronto on June 27.
When: June 27
Time: 10 am to 1 pm
Where: The Jam Factory – 2 Matilda Street, Toronto
Tickets: $45 – available through Universe
Daily Hive readers get 15% with promo code RNMKRTALKSIRIE