As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Evans, Founder of The Herb Somm. The Herb Somm is a cannabis blog and lifestyle brand that focuses on the gourmet side of the cannabis industry. Jamie is an educator, event host and producer, and writer specializing in cannabis, CBD, food, recipes, wine, and the canna-culinary world. As a well-known CBD and cannabis personality, Jamie is best known for her literary work and signature canna-culinary events. She’s also been contributing to POPSUGAR, MARY Magazine, and The Clever Root magazine specializing in lifestyle features for the modern consumer. In addition, Jamie is the co-editor of GoldLeaf’s acclaimed cannabis Cooking Journal and the author of a new CBD lifestyle book, The Ultimate Guide to CBD: Explore the World of Cannabidiol, to be published by Fair Winds Press of Quarto Publishing Group scheduled to release March 10, 2020. As an industry leader, Jamie was recently named as one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers in 2018 and as a 2018 Innovator by SevenFifty Daily. In July 2019, she was also appointed as the Northern California Community Leader of Crop-to-Kitchen, a San Francisco-based organization advocating for legalized cannabis cuisine and cannabis restaurants throughout California.
Alongside her work in the cannabis space, Jamie is a Certified Specialist of Wine with over a decade of wine industry experience.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
My relationship with cannabis began back in college while studying wine and viticulture at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. After studying wine sensory evaluation, it occurred to me that I could use these same principles with cannabis, which was exciting! However, back then, the conversation around cannabis was a lot different than what we are witnessing today, so my cannabis use was purely recreational.
It wasn’t until early 2017 that I began using cannabis for medical purposes. I had witnessed a terrible car accident and couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to take pharmaceuticals drugs, so I turned to cannabis, which was a more natural solution that helped me work through the trauma. This amazing plant has the power to heal us – this is why I decided to come into the industry.
In March 2017, I launched my company, The Herb Somm. Given my wine background and my love for the gourmet world, it seemed like the culinary side to cannabis was a natural fit, so I drove in. I quickly became immersed in the small but growing canna-culinary community. Having an opportunity to help shape this part of the industry is what excites me most.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Coming from a long history of working in the wine industry, my transition over to cannabis was done quietly. Given this was almost three years ago, there was a stigma – I was fearful. I didn’t want to lose credibility within the wine community, but I knew this is where I needed to be. Regardless of my worries, I left my full-time job and began to work on The Herb Somm. During this time, I figured the wine world wouldn’t embrace what I was doing, but I was dead wrong. What I’ve experienced so far has been nothing but support. I was even named as one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers in 2018. This proved to me that we cannot live in fear. If you are passionate about doing something, do it! If you put your heart and soul into the things you live, success will follow.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I am passionate about cannabis-infused cuisine and beverages. When first starting The Herb Somm, I didn’t know how to create the perfect infusions, but I was determined to learn. One of the first mistakes I made was scorching a batch of cannabis flower while decarboxylating in the oven. The cannabis turned a dark brown color, the smoke alarm went off, and the house smelled like burnt pine trees – it was a blessing it didn’t catch on fire! After that, I thoroughly studied proper decarboxylation techniques and boiling temperatures to ensure my recipes would turn out well. While there isn’t an exact science to cooking with cannabis, something that I’ve learned is not to try the first technique or recipe you find on the internet. Make sure to do your research and find a reputable resource, so you don’t burn down your house!
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
I wouldn’t say this is exactly funny, but one of the last people that I told was my grandmother. I knew it would be a challenge telling her I was in the cannabis industry because of the era she grew up in (i.e., the early days of prohibition and the War on Drugs, where cannabis was demonized as a dangerous drug that only criminals use). When I finally broke the news, she thought I had completely lost my mind, but after gently educating her and sharing some of the latest research that has come out, she’s now curious about trying CBD-infused topicals. That’s a great first step!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Throughout my career, I’ve had many mentors, but someone who really made an impression on me is Michael Mondavi, who taught me how to be a compassionate leader. He is also one of the most genuine and kind people to work for. I look up to his values and have implemented them into my own business.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Absolutely! I am just wrapping up my very first book, The Ultimate Guide to CBD: Explore the World of Cannabidiol, which will be coming out next March 2020 by Fair Winds Press of Quarto Publishing Group. Rumor has it, I’ll be starting on a second book soon. As a cannabis educator and writer, it’s been my dream to share the knowledge that I’ve learned since launching my business. There is so much misinformation out there. To be able to provide a resource that people can count on is powerful.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Despite great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry. According to this report in Entrepreneur, less than 25 percent of cannabis businesses are run by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender parity moving forward?
The community of women involved in this industry is one of the reasons why I wanted to come into this space. When I first launched my company, it seemed like there were a lot more companies run by women than what we are witnessing today. To achieve gender parity, when it comes to individuals, consumers must vote with their purchasing power to support women-owned companies. There’s also a trend of companies solely supporting women-run businesses, which makes this industry feel like a safe space to operate in. If female-owned cannabis companies can continue to support other women, this will help the gender parity. Finally, it’s time we squash the stigmas and age-old stereotypes that have plagued our society – women like weed too! With female consumers nearly doubling last year, the growth of women coming into the market has outpaced men. This is good news for women wanting to come into the industry and speaks to the need for a more balanced representation of the modern consumer.
You are a “Cannabis Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the cannabis industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each.
- Networking is crucial – I wouldn’t be where I am today without networking. It’s so important to get out there, meet new people, and share your goals of where you aspire to be in this industry. You never know who you might meet or who might be able to help along the way.
- Be an activist – While the cannabis industry has made some fantastic progress, we still have a lot of work to do. If you want to honor this plant and the pioneers who have risked so much before us, be a part of the movement and fight for what you believe in.
- Support Others – I’ve always believed that the cannabis industry is unique because, for the most part, this industry supports each other. If you’re thinking of coming into this space, remember that if you help and care for others, they will do the same for you.
- Collaborate – Some of my favorite projects that I’ve worked on have been the collaborations that I’ve done with chefs, edible companies, infused drink businesses, and more. By collaborating, you can work together to create unique programs that attract many different types of consumers. I believe this is the ultimate key to success in this industry!
- Build a Community – One of the greatest things about cannabis is it brings people together. To be successful, build your community and cherish it.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
Many things excite me about this industry, but for the most part, I am enthusiastic about the future of cannabis cuisine, cannabis restaurants, and cannabis-infused beverage bars. While cannabis is not permitted to be infused into freshly prepared culinary items in public yet, I believe this will change in the future. Cannabis is an incredible ingredient to cook with. It not only offers many different flavor and aroma components, but it also adds euphoria, which enhances the overall dining experience. Cannabinoid medicine also excites me, particularly the healing powers of lesser-known cannabinoids (i.e., CBG, CBN, CBDA, THCV, etc.) We are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to research. If cannabis becomes federally legal, I think scientists will make some monumental discoveries about the cannabis plant that will benefit us all.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
The three things I am most concerned about:
1) The small growers and farmers who are being pushed out by big business
2) The lack of representation of those who have been disproportionally impacted by the War on Drugs
3) The severe impact the illicit market is having on the legal market, especially here in California.
First of all, we need to protect the farmers and small growers that make this industry so special by providing resources, programs, and licensing that will allow them to prosper. We also need to raise awareness and deliver successful social equity and social justice programs for those impacted by the War on Drugs. Finally, to combat the illicit market, we need to make it easier for legal cannabis businesses to operate. For example, we could start by lowering taxes.
What are your thoughts about federal legalization of cannabis? If you could speak to your Senator, what would be your most persuasive argument regarding why they should or should not pursue federal legalization?
We must learn from the past, especially when it comes to the eras of prohibition. In 1933, the US government proposed the 21st Amendment to the Constitution that would repeal the ban on alcohol. This new Amendment was created because of the increase of the illegal production and sale of liquor, the rapid spread of underground speakeasies, and the rise in crimes that were associated with bootlegging. In the end, Congress decided prohibition was causing more harm than good, so they lifted the ban on alcohol and took a state by state regulatory approach.
As we’ve seen, cannabis has also faced prohibition struggles since its ban in the 1930s. Similar to alcohol, the ban on cannabis has created more harm than good, so it should be legalized nationwide, allowing states to implement their laws. Once the federal ban ends, more research can be funded, allowing us to discover precisely how cannabis can benefit us.
Today, cigarettes are legal, but they are heavily regulated, highly taxed, and they are somewhat socially marginalized. Would you like cannabis to have a similar status to cigarettes or different? Can you explain?
Absolutely not! Cannabis is nothing like cigarettes; there is no comparison. Cigarettes contain carcinogens and are designed to be addictive. Cannabis is a wellness tool that can help heal us. There are so many different applications for how you can integrate it into your routines and rituals, including topicals, edibles, drinkables, etc. You don’t have to smoke it to use it; not that smoking should be stigmatized either. Cannabis also has a wide array of theraputic benefits that many patients rely on across the county. We need to remove the burden of over-taxation for those who need cannabis the most.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A quote that has always inspired me is, “Have good trust in yourself … not in the One that you think you should be, but in the One that you are.” – Maezumi Roshi
My mother was the one who shared this life lesson with me. She always inspired me to trust my intuitions and to be happy with who I am. Because of this, I had the courage to start my own business because I know what I am capable of.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
In this lifetime, my goal is to help create a new era of dining where cannabis belongs at the dinner table. As the Northern California Community Leader for Crop-to-Kitchen, I am working on inspiring this movement now. There’s nothing better than enjoying a meal with friends and family. Add cannabis, even better!
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!