Cannabis and Marketing.

[00:00:00]Tim: I'm Tim Panton.
Vim: And I'm Vimla Appadoo
Tim: and this is the distributed future podcast. So serendipitously I in my local health food shop today.
I noticed that they were selling a range of cannabis-based teas so I commented
Vim: Oh Wow.
Tim: I know I commented on this and and and the guy who runs the shop like gave me a long explanation about how they don't they have they don't have any psychological effects, but but they do contain like, you know, various hormone Replacements and whatever that will change.
So it's like drinking tea basically, you know, if there are active chemicals, but they're not the psychoactive chemicals that are illegal, but it was interesting because he gave me a long speech about this and it kind of made me think very much of the interview that with with Melissa because that's like it's a lot of.
That but but it also made me think about how do you find [00:01:00] out about products like new products? How do you learn about what they do? And whether you want them or not Hey, how do you find out about a new product?
Vim: You know a lot of it is I have like a group of friends that have really into supplements and what they're eating and just generally.
Understanding what works for them and how it affects their body and it's mainly through word of mouth and then personal research, but it's really difficult to know what what actually works and what doesn't and being able to understand the science that sits behind as well.
Tim: Right? Because they.
What's fascinating about what you just said is that you're basically not classic advertising doesn't play a part in what you just said like you didn't say are so I see them on TV or [00:02:00] like I walked past a poster on the bus shelter. Is you said it's Word of Mouth which I think is really interesting. So that's like where you were here when you hear Melissa conversations, like that's a key element about that getting the small trusted groups to talk about your product is how you how you get that that product adopted by what might otherwise be like a hostile user group.
I think it's really interesting. You know that it's not I mean it goes beyond. I think it goes beyond food goes beyond supplements like true of pretty much any product now.
Vim: Well, it's um, it's kind of what we spoke about in the personal branding episode of influencers and like social media influencers and how you build that brand and you advertising has changed now, so you're less likely to be influenced by an advertisement on TV, but more influenced by one of your friends or someone that you respect saying that they believe in a product.
Tim: Right, but I think what's interesting or ads here is when what you said was like the science of it and I think that's that's another element of it was trying to balance that sort of, you know, groupthink admittedly as a trusted group and you know, it's. You're getting references but also some kind of science backing to it.
Like, you know, well, these are the numbers it's got this percentage of THC or or you know, it's it's a hundred percent not got palm oil in it or whatever but actual real numbers in it as well. And I think that's it's that. like it somehow managing distrust. We don't trust adverts anymore.
Vim: Or, I think it's not that we distrust them.
We just know what the aim is a lot more like they've become. So it's we're just wiser to the influence that others have on [00:04:00] us. And it's pushed companies organizations producers to think more about how they can influence by it.
Tim: I yeah, I think that's true. But I'm not sure that's the way around it worked.
I think it's more to do with the Dreadful thing, but organic behaviors, like what people have done and then the companies are following that you know that lead of you know, what's it called Dark social of people like in small groups talking. I think the other thing that's fascinating that Melissa says is that it or what Melissa is doing is is this crossover between actual real in person meetings and you know, like group meetups and networked electronic social networks.
Admittedly again both both of them are [00:05:00] closed groups invite only so I think is fascinating so that I think that crossovers fat really really interesting piece of like, you know, I haven't thought enough about it yet, but I feel like there's something really interesting there, but how she manages that. You've done this sort of thing
Vim: in terms of what
Tim: kind of like running meetups for organization.
Vim: Yeah. Yeah. So I was on a panel a few months ago where it was a group of female Network organizers talking about the different networks that they they run and communities that they've helped build.
And what "She Says" Manchester, which is one of them eat up that I've co-founded in Manchester. We've always kind of said the meetups opens anyone it's gender-inclusive. It's not specifically for anyone other than the speakers are only people that associate with being female. [00:06:00] So is it anyone can turn up and listen take part in the conversations?
But the stage is only for women and a lot of other people on the panel were saying actually they have paid memberships for their groups. You have to have your own business and like it kind of then became this checklist of everything that you need to be before you get you can join and then it was really interesting to hear like the breadth of space that there is lots of different organizations to exist but it still didn't for me is someone who is off by as minority in a lot of situations not just as my gender, but because of my race and my age like that kind of exclusivity still exists, so to join some of these networks, you still have to be able to afford like 500 pounds a year which isn't a lot but.
So is enough to kind of make you think twice you [00:07:00] have to be able to I don't know it just felt like there's this kind of. the more you have invite-only or the more that you're creating these communities. That aren't always open to everyone the less you can influence but then I guess the reverse is true because you're influencing more because you're making it you are making it exclusive.
It is a privilege to be a part of.
Tim: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I've got two things to say that one of which is like, you know, you really need to listen to Melissa's discussion on that because I think it think you'll find it's interesting because it she's doing women-only groups and when I say invite only it's you need to be invited by a member.
So that's not like so I don't think it's sort of I don't think it's paying paid entry. I actually don't know I didn't we didn't ask - didn't ask enough questions about the business model, but I was also this week within this overlaps a lot with what you just said. It was this week at a [00:08:00] thing in Berlin.
There was a meet up about planning for the future like, you know, trying to trying to trying to how do you how do we build a future that we want to live in? Yeah, which is kind of charming an interesting idea. But but the solutions that were put forward by the panel was staggeringly elitist. It's like, you know, basically you need to get a bunch of people who are in power and go to Davos with them and convince them to do what we think is a good idea for everybody else.
Vim: Wow,that's interesting.
Tim: Yeah, so that that was like, you know, and I I'm exaggerating. It wasn't quite that blunt. But when I was young I was going to ask a question at the end saying you don't you think this is a bit elitist? But blessings, you know, I'm a liar, right? And there's this other this other lad this this lad got up and said, you know you're talking about.
But people who [00:09:00] are ... He said I'm 24, but well and you calling me young like at what point do I become an adult and get a say in this area which has been it's like kind of made my point much better. So I thought well, I'm going to leave that aside done my job.
Vim: That's interesting. But so I was hosting a panel recently.
It was called the northern power Futures conference and it's all about how to like you said you had to build a future that we want to see and the panel I was on was what how did what do we want the world to look like in 2040 and the first person on the panel who had been on The Apprentice has his own business like successful guy.
And the first thing he said was actually we need Universal basic income. So almost the polar opposite of what was discussed on that panel. We need to make it like Drop robots are going to come and take automation away from kind of menial manual labor jobs at the moment. So we need to make sure that people are supported [00:10:00] and have the freedom to pursue any career that they want to and still live comfortably and it was really really interesting how that kind of comment turned the whole
panel discussion into how we how we build in diversity are we building inclusion how we create spaces where people feel comfortable to be themselves and let all of this really interesting stuff.
Tim: Right? Right. I mean, I think that's you know, that that is a different way of looking at it. The other thing that came out of the like the problem with panels, I think and one of the
one of the things that came home with me is for me is that the panel agreed that like, you know, the perfect future was basically a good party because everyone loves a good party and I've seen I thinking well, so it's not a good future for introverts then is it
Vim: exactly
Tim: that's and if you're gonna be on a panel like that then
futurists appeared to be [00:11:00] extroverts like that by Nature. So that was that was novel as well. I think I must have been a bit grumpy actually because I can see the negative side of this stuff. But
Vim: we had a really good discussion about reforming education so that you it so that it's not based on test scores and achievement but on pursuing what you find interesting or passionate about. Like being able to reward passion and ambition rather than academic Excellence, which was I thought really a really novel way of looking at it how you build that in from a young age.
Tim: Isn't that what Steiner schools do?
Vim: Yes, yes it is.
Tim: So I think it's been it means being done. I'm not sure it suits everybody.
Vim: I think know exactly but that's the whole point is that you can't build a something that does Sue everyone you kind of need to be able to understand how lots of different personality types all ways of learning [00:12:00] ways of thinking work.
Tim: Right, right and I think this I mean coming back to to to you know, the thing Melissa is doing is that a listener is a huge education element of it. Yeah. It's about like, you know, it's a learning about a product but it's learning also about you know, whether under what circumstances this product might be suitable for you or or how you might use it and you know
various other things in that kind of product education type form, but it's still it's education. It's like and part of it is about, you know, individual empowerment of like making the decision that this is something that works for me.
Vim: Yeah, but also understanding that what works for someone else like that person that you do trust with that information may not work for you, too.
Because so like when you first asked that question of how I find out about new [00:13:00] products. Yes, it's finding out what trusted friends contemporaries are doing but then researching it and understanding it for myself and making that decision based on what I understand from it. Not what they've said so really clear examples I've started I have started to take supplements to kind of help me sleep.
Stop me from getting ill etc, etc. I'm also under No Illusion that what I'm doing will work for my sister or the way that my friends do it will work for me. It's kind of you have to really take ownership of that and. figure out what what the best course of action for you is knowing your own life style your own ways of working your own pattern.
Tim: Well, yeah, I know and also what you eat. I mean, you know, a lot of a lot of supplements are doing our matching up, you know, your lifestyle and your eating habits with with. What your individual body needs or doesn't need and and that's [00:14:00] like those that kind of 3-way piece is kind of critically important.
I'm really I'm really keen to try and get on it. Anyway, you got to it the bit there was somebody who we wanted just to interview. I think we lost track of him. But he's very interesting on this is like, you know, the biggest biggest components are life's of like health is about lifestyle in there are a load o geneitic predispositions, but the core of it is about your lifestyle and small lifestyle changes and small diet and intake changes can drastically change your your well-being which I think is fascinating and kind of you know, I think we don't I mean we keep coming back to this, but I think it's true and I think it's less less obvious than you know, too people that it should be perhaps.
Vim: It's less obvious to people but it makes the most logical sense when you you always get told, you are what you eat and it's it just couldn't be more simpler than that. Like [00:15:00] it really in its simplest form.
Tim: Right? Right, but I think. you know knowing who you are is still like not that easy like knowing whether it's just whether it's good for you or not.
And we like the chocolate you like but is it good for you? Maybe maybe a small quantity is maybe that's just what you need first thing in the morning, you know, whatever now so yeah, I know but not sure about chocolate first thing in the morning, but as an example,
Vim: yeah, we are not advocating interpret for breakfast and
Tim: no except except on Christmas day or whatever this birthdays maybe so yeah.
Yeah. No we well. We're not advocating anything apart from making your own mind up I suppose.
Vim: Yeah, absolutely.
Tim: I think I think that kind of whole this whole business about. How networks form is also fascinating and I think we maybe we should come back to that as well at some point because like how you how networks form [00:16:00] of themselves.
And then I mean, I don't know about you, but I'm in a bunch of chat groups, which I have no idea how they happened and I'm not even sure how I got into some of them and that's fun. I mean, you know, they're interesting. I mean, I'm still in them because they're interesting is they weren't I'd be out.
But I don't know I like I don't know if anyone's done any science on like how those things form and how the rules of the house are set because they all have their own rules these these chat rooms.
What's your experience?
Vim: mine's as chat rooms and more kind of like, I've been a part of big Facebook groups closed and open and the same on Twitter as well.
A big Twitter can direct message groups and stuff. it's really interesting to see how the often you'll have a load pin to the top of them like the rules. and rules for that particular group.
That is set by someone. You've never met or know or really understand and how quickly people are two [00:17:00] police comments that they disagree with but if someone posts something in the same vein, but something that they do agree was they won't report it which is really I find so interesting just as a social Dynamic
I think I worry about them because I'm in a lot that only that perpetuate the way I think they don't really Challenge and I worried about. not having enough people in my network that challenge my opinions or thought process and so I'm very conscious of that kind of all myself congratulating circle of we all think the same way.
Therefore we must be right. The echo chamber effect really. So I think they're good because it helps clarify often clarify your opinion or. What you think but then it's also quite negative and.
in how it's done.
Tim: Right? I mean, I think I totally know what you mean [00:18:00] with that. I mean I but it is so wearing to be in it chat group whose or say chat group, but like as you say it could be could be on Twitter. It could be on Facebook. It could be any of the different message platforms wire or whatever
they like. It's really exhausting being in one whose entire. Thesis is something you disagree with like so that's tiring what's more fun is to be on something where you're learning and you're letting your opinions tested but in general you're interested in the subject matter, you know that those those are our fun or just like, you know, friendship groups who don't you don't necessarily agree with all the time.
That's also entertaining
Vim: yeah,
Tim: I'm not in any really big groups like that.
Mine tend to be you know, 10 or 12 people if that and you know, 2s and 3s is also quite common. But anything bigger than that, I tend to kind of, you know, find a [00:19:00] bit like hard work.
Vim: Yeah, it is interesting. I'm in a I'm in a really big one on Facebook called Race Matters where it's interesting because you're not it's a private group that any what but anyone can join you just be accepted by the administrator to discuss controversial things in the news or anything that touches diversity from a minority ethnic point of view, and one of their rules is that you're not allowed to share anything that's posting that group outside of the group.
So it's meant be a safe for people to discuss that kind of thing or ask questions or you know, whatever. It might be. Which I completely understand but then part of me is like the how is anyone that's not in this group can learn about the things that were talking about if you're not allowed to share outside of it.
So I find loads of the articles are shared and they're just really interesting because they often pose a very different perspectives of the conversations that I have on a day-to-day and I want to share [00:20:00] those but I can't
Tim: Right
Vim: I find such a challenge for me.
Tim: Yeah, so I mean I think. Attribution like this this I mean there's the Chatham House thing, which is that you can quote but you can't attribute which I think is interesting like so you can you can say it crops up in conversation that but you can't say Vim said.
Vim: Yeah,
Tim: which I think is like, you know, that's that and I kind of like that but I mean I'm in I'm in groups where the expectation is that nothing will leave the group like you won't talk about what's in the group.
Vim: Yeah,
Tim: because they know they'll be discussing security stuff and it'll be maybe something maybe an unpublished vulnerability.
They're working on that they haven't they're not sure whether it's there or not. So they like they want to discuss it with some peers but they don't want other people to to claim the you know, well, the finder's fee actually in some cases,
so yeah groups are are fascinating, but maybe we should [00:21:00] we should let you listen to the conversation.
Melissa: Hello, my name is Melissa Pierce. I am the COO and sometimes CTO of cannabis Focus startup elementa. That is the world's largest growing women's cannabis Wellness Network.
Tim: So what does the network look like in this context? I mean, is it a like a physical thing or like a membership list, or how does that was that?
Form itself as.
Melissa: We don't have a membership list not a formal membership anyway, but we are both in physical spaces. We host Gatherings around North America right now in 50 different cities every single month where women can get together and share their experiences and meet cannabis experts and ask all of the questions they want and then we also have an online community of women that [00:22:00] do the same thing, but.
on-line and we invite experts in and we share articles and ask questions Etc. So we really kind of you can look at it at it two ways. We have an online community which we augment with events or we have an events Community which we augment in the interim with online.
Tim: I mean maybe stepping a little bit back about the kind of subject matter it work what you're doing if I understand it correctly is like allowing people to learn about cannabis in a form that is like not kind of behind the bike shed at school or like in a kind of very kind of I think the rest of us all learnt in sort of slightly.
Opaque circumstances should we say, you know not like not in a relaxed form. Anyway, maybe.
Melissa: Exactly. That's exactly what we're doing. So we're taking this stigma of cannabis is for college students and for parties and for people who love to break the law [00:23:00] those kinds of things and we are putting it into the Wellness category and we're helping women understand how to use cannabis in a way that helps them, you know.
physically spiritually mentally because a lot of them don't know or don't know the questions to ask. There's not a lot of reliable information out there. So they're certainly not going to walk into their local head shop and start asking questions, but they would come to an event where women are where it's very welcoming and low-key and they feel safe to ask those kinds of questions.
Tim: So I suppose I mean, you mentioned that the legal aspect for those of us in Europe. Like there's somewhat of a patchwork in Europe, but in some countries like it's pretty much illegal, but not heavily enforced illegality and then. I think there's one or two countries where it's not illegal, but growing is and says like quite a complicated Patchwork of [00:24:00] law in Europe pretty much pretty limited legality, but I understand the situation in in the Americas is completely different.
Can you like to talk a little bit about that so we can understand the picture slightly?
Melissa: Certainly. So America is actually not that different than Europe is far as you know, there are different laws in different enforcement's in the United States. I think oh man, don't quote me on this. I think we are up to nine states where we have adult use.
That means anyone can walk into a dispensary or marijuana shop and purchase without a medical card. Then we have a handful of states that have medical marijuana. So these are our you have to be certified you have to have specific illnesses on a specific list and this varies state by state, but then you can walk into.
a dispensary and purchase your medicine and there are states. Of course that have no [00:25:00] legality. There's nothing you can do in that state. You may not may not pass go. Of course Canada just legalized in October and that's and that's been really fun to watch them. Try to sort out. You know, how. How do they how do they even begin what they don't what do women are women from Canada are emailing us going we we are in this marijuana shop and are we were looking at this online?
I can't go into the shop.

Tim: this is something I haven't seen for my own eyes, but I read that. It is really a huge industry like this is this is a serious business proposition in the states where it's legal the this is a huge industry and to the extent that like some of the dispensaries are what used to be Banks.
So you take a bank Hall and you turn it into a dispensary because the physical security matches up and those are the kinds of buildings that are that are turning into dispensaries. Now, I understand is that makes sense and I have been led astray there?
I mean, it [00:26:00] sounds great. No dispensary that I have been in has been built like a bank, but I totally want to visit whichever ones you read about.
There are all sorts of different kinds of things and you know from just a locked back room and every every dispensary that I have visited has had that, you know metal door and extra security for sure, but they are popping up everywhere and then they are in kind of the most unlikely places you walk into.
You walk to San Francisco just walk around and you'll see of myriad of different kinds of shops that you can walk into and peruse their cannabis merchandise, but you are right. It is a massive industry. It is predicted by 2025 to reach 146 billion dollars. And that's just that's just the plant that's just the products that doesn't even include all of the auxiliary products or services.
So it is massive. It's predicted to be huge
Tim: that's amazing. And and and as we were saying earlier, there's so little kind of information. It's not something you've kind of necessarily grown up with reliable Ed information is kind of bit like sex education except without the formal education. It's like it's always been kind of whispered and hinted rather than stuff that you
like learned about in a more informed way. So you're really changing changing the story and why do you feel that specifically necessary for women?

Melissa: Well my co-founders and I all have different different opinions on this Eliza. The founder would say that it changed her life. She had insomnia, you know, she had chronic pain and when she finally got up the nerve to try cannabis and it helped with that.
You know, she had a full night's sleep. She woke up. She woke up crying. She was so grateful. She would say women need this. Because [00:28:00] medicinally it is it has been missing from our arsenal of self-care. So that's what Eliza would say. That's why women need it because someone told us it was bad and we haven't touched it in that is totally wrong.
I would say well I would say women buy 80% of the wellness products in the world. That's just who buys them they care for themselves. They care from the family. They are the ones who make these decisions and at a hundred and forty six point four billion dollar industry. It would be stupid of me not to start this company and then and then Ashley Ashley would say that the Cannabis Community is and has been mostly women
even underground especially for wellness and Ashley want to continue that Sisterhood as the industry is grow bigger as more players get involved. She wants to make sure that we have that Sisterhood in place
Tim: so I'm curious to know how you maintain Sisterhood. [00:29:00] Online like I get how you do that with physical meetups .
I guess that's part of the attraction of doing the physical meetups, but I think online that's kind of harder to validate. How do you know what your experience is a difference there?
Melissa: You know, it is harder to validate but we do have all women groups. We group them by state. They're still very tight-knit communities.
Maybe the women don't know one another but they feel safe enough to ask questions in those groups and communities. We have an online review lab where women can review various products and ask one other questions and that's quite lovely to get another woman's opinion about something. You know, when I first tried cannabis, I was in my 40s and I tried it with my partner and there's there's something I.
Nobody tells you about trying these things is you know, you can you can try [00:30:00] something with a with a man you can you know, I tried it and I tried it and he had he had been using cannabis for quite some time. So it's quite comfortable. And what I what I realized is that he had no frame of reference for understanding what it was going to be like for me a woman passed her 40s to try cannabis for the first time.
And it boy would have I appreciated another woman that said here's what you can expect. Here's what you're going to worry about here. You know, here's what I found. I really needed that and you need that all of the time not just the once a month Gatherings that we have.
Tim: So to what extent do you think those differences are to do with?
Just kind of physiological differences body mass metabolism things like that and how much of those differences psychological that you know, a woman coming to this as you say at a particular age may have a different mindset and set of expectations from you know, [00:31:00] like the classic young lad in high school type idea.
Melissa: You know, that's a that's a big nut. But I think you know, there are certain things physiologically that are different. Of course, especially when women hit menopause. And then things are very different their hormones shift everything their body shifts. And what's great about cannabis is that it is a it is a regulator.
So it will help regulate your endocannabinoids. These are your cannabinoid system endocannabinoids is basically a cannabinoids which our body already makes these ones your body makes inside itself. And as we age these don't work as well. And so you can replace these endocannabinoids with phyto cannabinoids which plants like cannabis have.
So this matters to women specifically, I mean, it's good for chronic pain across the board. It's great for like I said menopausal symptoms and menstrual symptoms. [00:32:00] So it's great for those things. But then you know thinking not just not just psychologically but culturally what a lot of women especially in the "just say no" generation have been told is that if they
if they ingest this drug, they are degenerate. So they are bad parents or they are you know Slackers at work or whatever that is. So there's a big cultural stigma on that and you can just think of that cultural stigma with men and then add all of the other stuff that women are supposed to be to look to be good Mothers and partners Etc.
So they have to overcome all of that stigma which is which is pretty big.
Tim: Right. So you see you've got all of the things kind of that you would get with alcohol but none of the background knowledge and kind of even more because it's more recently legal [00:33:00] even more kind of societal pressure not to do it or kind of frowning on it.
So do you think you can address that with with in reasonable time? Is it you being successful in that?
Melissa: I mean we've been at this for a little less than two years and we have 50 gatherings in the US. So I'd say that we're doing a pretty good job of addressing it and but it is slow going you really have to know that these women are coming here and. And you know who comes to our who comes to our Gatherings is so so very interesting.
And so telling is that we have older women who have been using marijuana for years and never talked about it with anyone because they were afraid to talk about it and they're finally allowed to bring their knowledge to other women. So we have those women then we have the women who have never [00:34:00] touched it and are desperate because they have fibromyalgia or chronic pain or you know children with seizures or you know partners with Alzheimer's or they're taking care of their parents who have lots of nausea from chemotherapy of all of those things and then you have this other set which we did not expect.
When we started this we knew we were going to hit women 35 and Beyond and that was our Target, but then this other set came in that we totally didn't expect which was the millennial woman who is desperate for information about. Cannabis and wellness they have been to parties. They have passed around joints.
And yes, that's great. But they need someone to talk to who will help them understand how to use this to feel better.
Tim: That's fascinating.
Melissa: How is it [00:35:00] anxiety? Yes, how does it help with depression like all of those things but they don't have that within their communities. And so they are coming to meet with older women who can help them and guide them through that and that's beautiful and amazing.
Tim: Yes, it's true. So this is a something that you can't kind of just Google. It's much more hence. The face-to-face meet ups and I. I guess that conveying that face-to-face is much more effective than any other means. How do you do you see those groups then continue to communicate online or how does that blending work or are they two separate kind of user groups that you managed separately wasn't very clear that but I'm kind of interested in how that how the intersection between those two user groups works.

Melissa: know, we see a mix so some of some of the women who come to Gatherings join our groups and continue their conversations [00:36:00] there some of the women never attend a gathering but are very active within the group's some of the women live in places where we don't yet have Gatherings and they have formed their own tight-knit communities within our groups, which is lovely so there is a big mix and I wouldn't say that
we're seeing at pole and one way or the other
Tim: but there is crossover because I was wondering whether like the Millennials really only did online and the older people only did meet ups or the other way around or kind of you know, whether there was an age differential but it sounds like there isn't.
Melissa: And there is an I mean if I think about it that way the Millennials are definitely on online more, you know on Instagram more on those things.
I think that that we kind of see a drop out maybe in the women who have are in the time of active family. You know they have they're very active with their families. They are very active with their jobs. They just don't [00:37:00] have as much time to be on the internet interacting with other women, they might jump in and ask a question and get answers and then we might not see them again until a gathering.
Tim: Right,
Melissa: so I would say we see that and then the older women are often often on social networks, you know, they come in once a day and they answer every single question and that's very fun.
Tim: That's great. That's it. That's that's really interesting. I at how do you like their restrictions on social networks?
And what can we said because if it's legal in some states and illegal in others or is commentary on it legal everywhere. I'm kind of ignorant on this.
Melissa: We're a closed private group. So that helps there are tons of advertising laws and very many laws about the promotion of cannabis use etcetera Etc.
We are in events and Media company. However, we don't touch the plant. [00:38:00] So even though some of those things don't don't apply to us. We are still pretty careful about how we publicly talk about it. But as far as the women talking about it online in our private, Groups, the United States is a free speech nation and we can talk about whatever we want.
You know, we would never you would probably never admit to committing a crime. I think that goes without without saying you would you would never write that you committed a crime online. That would be terrible committing the crime that is but also writing about it, but it's fairly safe to talk about cannabis and private groups and with.
People that you feel you can trust
Tim: right? And so how do you maintain that trust in the mean? This is a huge issue and not just in your world. But like in general, how do you maintain trust in a in a [00:39:00] group online? I mean, it can be problematic with physical meetups, but it's definitely problematic in in online groups do you have moderators.
And how do you how do you manage those groups?
Melissa: Of course, we have moderators. Also our groups are invite-only so you can only be invited in through Elementa and we approve all of those people so we will take a look make sure that this is a genuine person, you know, we cross check to see if this person has been to a gathering that kind of thing.
A lot of women are invited in by their friends and so we try to trust in that. But you know just by nature of the way that Elementa is set up to be this welcoming safe space. We tend to kind of our members our community tend to kind of bring that in with them. So we haven't had a lot of. In fighting or anything like that.
We just tend to [00:40:00] approach the community as respectfully as possible and they in turn have been incredibly respectful
Tim: because I think that's a that's really interesting lesson in a much broader context of like of running online groups because that's a huge problem. And and now I think. Marketers are starting to see it as an opportunity of running closed or semi-closed groups of people interested in the product.
But exactly how to do that. I think it's still not really well understood. So I think the lessons are you learning? They're probably. Pretty applicable in a bunch of other places. I don't quite know where yet, but I was thinking about that. But but I think that could be could be really could be really something actually in because you know, we read so much about the lack of trust in in in online these days.
I think you know what you're doing there with with closed groups [00:41:00] and vetting but also setting the expectations are really really interesting set of lessons aren't that I might have to come back to a question on that when I kind of got my my head around what I want to ask but um, so in terms of the.
The users are they do they then become like active participants or or how do you how do you manage the crossover between people who join and people who want to kind of help actively take part as it is that very informal or do you have a kind of formal structure to it?
Melissa: Well, we have a formal structure for Gathering leaders.
So we we identify a woman or you know, sometimes it's a set of friends that really feel passionate about cannabis or women's communities and want to help lead those particular groups in the cities that they're in so that's a little bit more of a formal structure at we have a much deeper relationship with those women.
[00:42:00] We provide them with. Content and if for their for their events, and we provide them with support as far as booking venues and things like that. So we do have that for those women who are much more active and want to be gathering leaders and then they lead those Gatherings every single month. And then women who are just active and show up we have those and you know, it's and then at that point, it is really just like any other group you have two people who show up and lurk you have two people who are very active.
You have the people who are not Gathering leaders and are definitely very active who will email you every day and say, did you see this? Did you see this? Look at this thing? I'm doing etc, etc.
Tim: And are you able to kind of disseminate that throughout your your meetings or do you tend to keep kind of the business of one meeting to a single [00:43:00] meeting?
I'm kind of curious about how how they cross pollinate or whether they are kind of more solo objects.
Melissa: Thus far the only cross-pollinating that has happened is you know, the Gathering leaders have their own group and talk amongst themselves about what's happening in their cities. And that's the most cross-pollinated we've done. We just got to 50 Gatherings however and are looking at you know, how how do we combine these women together is that.
Is is that a good thing, you know, because laws and how people how people approach cannabis is different by region and by state and by community, so we're looking at into that as far as a national group goes but then wonder you know, is that too big for what we're doing right now because that trust and that safety is so important to the Women Within These communities that it might not be wise to do [00:44:00] a national thing, but you you can expect.
From us to have National events where we invite all of these women to meet one another, you know, National webcasts podcasts things like that where they can all interact and then of course our review Labs where they can interact but it is a little bit different.
Tim: Right, right. So so in terms of the geography, is there a particular size of city that tends to form a.
Form a meeting or they are those they they just some Rural and some big cities and and it kind of doesn't matter. How does that play out?

Melissa: Well, of course, the bigger cities are much more apt to form a meeting and be very active but we have some very small cities that are some of our most active and most passionate women when we first started this we look at cities that had 500,000 people or more. And said, okay those are our targets and then we [00:45:00] broke them back down by you know State legality and those kinds of things but you know, it turned out that women from tiny tiny towns
were reaching out and contacting us saying I would really like to start one of these in my town. Can I do this in my kitchen? You know, I just need a few people at my living room table and some guidance and those, you know, those intimate women circles are very important regardless of where they are.
So it's been very different but a majority of our Gatherings at this point are in cities that have at least 500,000 people.
Tim: That's interesting. Yeah, I suppose that figures. I was just kind of and and is there a, you know, do you get this sort of? Cities that have a particular reputation like over-represented they you know, they're cities which are very seen as very straight-laced and you might think of them as being underrepresented but on the other hand like those are [00:46:00] maybe the places where its most needed.
So, how does that that look to you?

Melissa: Well, I don't know if there are any cities that are really over-represented. Because I feel like we have just gotten started. I would say it was a surprise to us how quickly after California legalized cannabis that we had. So many Gatherings just almost instantly women were like, holy moly.
What are we doing with all of this stuff? I don't even know someone please help and just I feel like it was almost immediately. After that. We had like 11 or 12 Gathering spring up overnight. So women could talk about what the heck was this product they now had access to and how would it help them change the lives of their.
Tim: I think that's one thing that like I haven't really thought about it a [00:47:00] little bit a tiny amount of research before this conversation is is the variety of product. I mean, you know when you think about cannabis use in Europe in know my youth like you got what you were offered like there wasn't you either bought it or you didn't it wasn't like there was a range of possibilities in front of in you could choose like, you know, Late-season whatever High Hill like you can with coffee it wasn't it wasn't there but these days I understand that that's kind of pretty much where it's going.
Melissa: Oh, man. It is and it's and it's not just it's not just the strain of cannabis, which is ridiculously varied now it's not just you know, what it's called where it's grown and all of those things. It's also how do you want to ingest it? Do you want to smoke the flower? Do you want to smoke some infused [00:48:00] oil?
Do you want to. Have an edible. Do you want to have a sublingual there's things that dissolve in your mouth and you put next to your cheek. Do you want to take a tincture? Do you want to rub it onto your skin? Do you want to a transdermal? There are just millions of ways which you can ingest cannabis now, they're making different products all the time.
So not not only. Is this a stigma that everyone has to get over suddenly cannabis is legal and holy crap. It's actually, you know, it's actually good for you not good for everyone, but good for a lot of people. And now there are a thousand different ways to consume it because of course the consumer Market has blown up, you know, you can have it in tea if you'd like just in a hundred different ways so it can get very confusing but we we anticipated it was going to be it was going to be an issue but we did not anticipate how quickly women [00:49:00] would say.
This is an issue, please help us.
Tim: That's cool. That's cool. Did you mean do you think that the market is going to kind of go through one of those simplification cycles and like the sheer range of product will reduce and get back to a kind of something a bit more manageable or or we permanently in this state of many many of you
Melissa: Oh no, just like look at Beauty and wellness products.
That there is not a simple product category. Those things are all over the books and they are so varied and I think we're just going to get more and more varied. So, you know, I feel like it's almost our responsibility to educate women about what to look for and what kind of products are out there.
And what kind of what kind of efficacy each kind of product and each way of processing and all of those things how that works.
Tim: [00:50:00] So, I guess like you're in a like now in a position where brands are being made. There's going to be a trusted brand that comes out of of this market now that's going to be like well, maybe not dominant but going to be a lead brand for 20-30 years, so it must be quite kind of.
Aggressive Market going on there.
Melissa: Indeed, but then I have to stop and ask you are there any lead brands that you think are starting now? That will be good for 20 to 30 years. Are we still in that kind of business cycle?
Tim: I think that
Melissa: that's that's what I'm wondering about.
Tim: I kind of think we are. I mean if you think something like well, I mean apple or.
You're right. I haven't seen any kind of consumer product traditional consumer product like like a new soap maker or something. But but I think yeah, I think it certainly clothing. There are new [00:51:00] new brands coming out that will hope to last for like 20 years. So yeah, I think so.
Melissa: Yeah. I kinda I'll be interested to find out if cannabis works that same way because the large players that are already in Wellness have not gotten started yet.
They're just they're dipping their toe as we say and then we should see these larger pharmaceutical companies and wellness companies really start taking off with us. And then who knows who knows what's going to happen after that?
Tim: Yeah, right.
Melissa: I imagine that it's varied Marketplace for quite some time
Tim: interesting cool.
So I mean if you got any kind of more thoughts in terms of particularly about the organization of of a. Closed group that you could kind of share with people because I think that for like the audience in Europe whilst it's interesting to read about or hear about cannabis is not [00:52:00] necessarily anything we can act on but what I think what you're doing in terms of group running closed groups is actually really applicable to a lot of other spaces.
So like anything you can like tease us with there or or give us this kind of homework to go away with on that.
Melissa: It is just a very different way of marketing and a very different way to speaking to and with your audience and it's a lot more Community Management, but I think you know, I think Industries.
And the way people communicate, you know, they go through these cycles of aggregating everybody and then filtering, you know, when we always we always hear the thing well, how big is your list? How big is your community and we judge everything by how big something is and then you think about interaction and you're like well how what's that interaction?
Like when you have a ginormous community and the interaction, you know Falls that engagement Falls [00:53:00] lower as your community grows, but if you have. Several smaller communities then you can keep up that level of Engagement. You know that high-touch-ness is extremely important, especially. Especially if you want to remain a trusted brand if you have a product to sell or a service to sell then having these smaller communities that are engaged either around locations around specific products or around specific services.
This is very effective marketing, you know, if. If we reach out to the part of our community who is not super interested in one particular kind of cannabis product but a super interested in a different cannabis product or say it non-legal States. They're really into CBD then then we are going to get so much engagement from those women.
And it's going it's going to be much more lucrative for [00:54:00] ourselves and for our partners. So I think that segmenting your lists and focusing on making sure that you can add value to those segments will it will help them interact in much higher rates and get you much better returns and they will value your company your product your service.
Much more and have much more loyalty to it.
Tim: Yeah, I think I like the other thing. I think I heard you say sort of implicitly but maybe didn't bring it out was the particularly in your space the value of staying true to your roots and being like very clear about what you're I guess you call them brand values, but you know what the values are of the organization and being really pretty active in maintaining those I think that's.
It feels to me like you think that's important.
Melissa: I mean, I know that's important. I mean you could we could pivot for elementa is for everybody and we would lose a lot of that closeness and Trust if we did that so I think it is very important to stick with your values and and very important to figure out how you're going to do that as you scale.
Tim: Yeah, and do you do you think you might reach a point where you start to have a like a hierarchical structure because you got 50 groups at the moment and that's kind of manageable on a on a flat structure. But you going to add some start having like country groups or you know, Northwest area groups or like you're going to have to have structure on it.
Do you think.
Melissa: We already have some of that, you know, we have groups that are just Canada, you know, we have several several [00:56:00] gatherings in Canada, but we have a group that's just for Canada because their laws are so very different and you know Believe It or Not Canadian women. Do behave differently than American women and they asked questions differently and they have different cultural values and then of course within those cultures it's very different and varied other places, but it's super important to us that we can recognize these things and certainly, you know in the United States we happen to know that women in the South have a just a different way of existing then women say in New York or California.
It is it isn't it's important that that even though we have these, you know by City structures and by state structures that as we grow and we will of course have to do some hierarchical things that but that we're very careful about how we structure those [00:57:00] so. You know, we might have a Midwest group and that will incorporate all of this states in the midwest, but we will still have those smaller groups within them and that will just have to be something that we understand as we scale is something that we cannot sacrifice on because that's where you know, the trust and value of Elementa community life.
Tim: So one more question about the technology you your principally in Facebook or Instagram or do you run your own forums? How does that work?
Melissa: Our review lab is our own Forum, but we are principally on Facebook and Instagram because that is where all of those women are. As our community gets a little younger.
We will have to move into different platforms. But right now Facebook tends to be where most of the women 35 to [00:58:00] 65 plus are still coexisting and comfortable as our brand becomes more known we will probably migrate from Facebook to our own proprietary group, but for now Facebook is. Familiar and comfortable and feels good for a lot of our Market
Tim: cool.
Cool. No, I think that's a again that's just a question that like goes beyond your environment. I think there are you know, that's a general question that I think people are starting to think about like what what platform should we be on