However, less stigma exists today and a growing number of Americans understand that cannabis executives are parents too, facing the same challenges as any other working parents. Washington state regulators even passed emergency legislation this month allowing cannabis businesses to bring their children to their workplaces – a nod to the challenges working people face around the COVID-19 pandemic, which has closed schools and forced many parents to work from home.
In recognition of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, Marijuana Business Daily asked cannabis executives to send photos of themselves with their kids at work – whether that be a coronavirus-compelled home office, a cultivation facility or other cannabis property – and to share insight about having kids around while they work.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
How it’s been working from home?
Jordan Sinclair, vice president of communications at Canopy Growth in Ontario, Canada: It's hectic and fun and challenging and heartwarming all at once. When you're in a tense meeting and your 5-year-old busts in to say he found an Easter egg four days after the "hunt" happened, it reminds you what's important in life.
What is your best tip for getting work done from a home office environment? What’s your sense of the changing perceptions of cannabis executives as parents?
There have been stressful days when it feels impossible to be a good parent and a good employee and a good leader all at once. The days that feel the best are days that have a structure that incorporates the kids. Our family has been doing set meetings for playing and eating meals together on top of the normal cadence.
We've had a close-knit executive team for a long time so I already knew all my colleagues' kids. For that reason, my perception of them hasn't changed much through this. Externally, the whole stigma conversation continues and will for a while. I view it as a marathon, not a sprint. As we do the right things for our employees, our communities, our customers and our shareholders, we earn credibility step by step.
How's it been working in close quarters with a child?
Roxanne Dennant, CEO of Fruit Slabs in Oakland, California: My son Hendrix is 5 months old, so thankfully he’s not talking and asking a million questions. But on the flip side, he only communicates in loud noises and crying, and as you can imagine that can become problematic during conference calls. I try to be as optimistic as possible during this crisis and really appreciate the time I have with my husband and son right now.
What is your sense of perceptions of cannabis executives as parents?
A huge inspiration for me starting Fruit Slabs was wanting to create a brand that would change the overall negative stigma and perception surrounding cannabis, especially for moms. ... I run a self-funded startup company and it is nowhere near as demanding as being a mom - and moms need a break. Mentally, physically, spiritually - moms need a way to relax, break free from the demands of being a mom and have some alone time.
Chanda Macias, owner of National Holistic Healing Center in Washington DC, and CEO of Ilera Holistic Healthcare in Baker, Louisiana: My children have always loved the opportunity to participate in my workday. In this picture, my children were touring the Ilera Holistic grow here in Louisiana during our construction. That day we learned about supply-chain management, project management, effective communication and, of course, conflict resolution.
Working so closely with them during COVID-19 has been an adjustment. My youngest two children are in fourth grade and college, respectively, so it makes for a variety of interesting situations.
The two things that helped me through this transition the most were setting up a schedule for my 10-year-old and taking my phone calls outside. The outdoor phone calls give me a little peace and a nice change of scenery. It probably gives them a bit of peace as well. Getting my son on a better schedule has helped to keep him a bit more organized and on task as he completes his distance-learning activities.
Wesley Ray, co-founder of Combined Hemp in Bend, Oregon: We have always strived to make farming hemp a family project.
Our oldest transitioned into an online school platform last year. We find that making our kids part of daily business, from driving tractors to sending product to customers, really gives a sense of contribution.
We all work toward the common goal of getting tasks done in an efficient and timely fashion. Hands-on allows them to gain real-life experience, also helping them develop a hardy work ethic of their own plus knowledge to carry into the future. Beginning our fourth growing season of hemp in the midst of a pandemic is reiterating that if we have each other and stay positive, we can get through anything ... even with the combo of terrible 2s and preteens!
Photo by Megan Baker
How’s it been working in close quarters with children?
Jeff Yapp, CEO of Chalice Farms in Portland, Oregon: My children are older, ranging from 21-35, so it’s been fun for me to have more of them be home. I have a college student that came home, my daughter and her fiancé are staying with us from California, and a few others locally, and it’s been a great opportunity for all of us to reconnect. I also have my 3-year-old grandson, Nash, here regularly, and he’s been the vocal star of my conference calls. We’ve been working on packaging and labeling from home, and he’s really taken on the role of being the boss by ensuring all of our stickers and labels are straight and encouraging us to work as fast as possible.
What’s your sense of perceptions of cannabis executives as parents?
During the coronavirus pandemic, many states have classified dispensaries as essential businesses – and that seems to be establishing more credibility for the industry to change the nature of this conversation. Because we’re working from a plant-based medicine perspective, we’re helping people, and that is an important message to communicate as a parent.
Rusty Peterson, hemp farmer and president of Align Agro in Davison, Michigan: It is extremely fulfilling to look up and see your little one running around and taking an interest in what you are doing. When they start to “help” or mimic what you are doing, it is simply a sense of pride. However, there are challenges, which is having to constantly make sure their undeveloped coordination skills do not see them knocking any material or supplies over.
The best tip to get things done for my wife and I is to definitely set aside time to really play with and tucker Reid out. We also prioritize and take turns with our little one and let our five dogs play a role in babysitting. As parents, we have always tried not to let the opinion of others affect us all too much, and we are finding extremely positive feedback from our little one being active with us in the hemp industry space. It helps bridge the gap to others who might have a stigma toward cannabis to start a conversation when they see we are family-oriented and very much into providing awesome direction for Reid.
How has it been working from home?
Taylor West, Partner at Heart + Mind Media in Denver: The hardest part is that my brain is always somewhat in two places at once. I’ve been able to maintain my standards for good work, but I do feel a lot more “brain-tired” at the end of the day from all the switching back and forth. That said, I am fortunate to have an extremely supportive spouse and co-parent with a similarly flexible at-home work schedule - and a child who’s young enough that our goal is just to keep him healthy and happy.
What are your perceptions of cannabis professionals as parents?
Like everything else in the cannabis world, we’ve moved a long way toward the mainstream, while not being all the way there yet. I’m especially grateful to the frontline cannabis industry parents who stepped out and spoke about their work and their families in the years before now. That courage to open their lives to both societal judgment and legal risk has paved the way for the rest of us to proudly share our work and our families without fear.
Jeremy Unruh, senior vice president, public and regulatory affairs at PharmaCann in Chicago: Juggling kids with work is a complicated dance. In a future with more focus on e-learning, we're going to have to reconfigure our workday. Calls at 9 a.m. are difficult when kids are organizing themselves for a day of online learning at that same time.
It's great to be more meaningful in our children's learning process, but this new math is seriously befuddling. In our home, we work in time blocks. We have a good lunch, and we get outside right after the school day.
Wes Burk, president of Emerald Scientific in San Luis Obispo, California: While working from home with two teenage daughters sounds daunting, it has actually been a wonderful experience! Prior, my routine was to leave the house at 5:30 in the morning and return around 7 p.m., leaving only enough time for dinner and not much more.
Now, while the workday is still long, I’m able to take advantage of the little breaks in the day and check in with the girls. It might be sharing a quick bite, taking a little walk or just torturing them with “Dad” jokes. But it really deepens the connections and helps us support one another with the challenges of the situation we all find ourselves in. ... I will likely continue to work from home at least a day or two per week even after the stay-at-home orders are lifted.
How’s it been working in close quarters with children?
Rosie Mattio, CEO of Mattio Communications in New York City: Working from home with my four young daughters has been both challenging and rewarding in many ways. On the one hand, I feel like I am constantly "shushing" them in anticipation of ongoing calls, as well as trying to balance my busy work schedule with their busy school schedule. There is a lot of juggling that I don't generally have to deal with when I am in the city in my office.
That being said, as a mom who travels a few times a month for work and is out a lot at night for client and media dinners, I am relishing in this precious time together. ... Additionally, I think it's great for my kids to see just "how hard mommy works." They now have a tangible image of what I do all day and the effort I put in day in and day out, which I hope will instill a great work ethic in them.
Are perceptions of cannabis professionals as parents changing?
I think in an industry of startups, we are all constantly go, go, go. We put on a tough shield of "get stuff done" and often don't show vulnerability. Working from home during COVID-19 has humanized the industry. I keep saying I haven't been on a Zoom meeting in the last five weeks where I haven't seen a child or dog run by, so we are giving glimpses of our lives to each other, which I think will help build more meaningful relationships as we come out of it.
There is also a sense of camaraderie among the parents we work with. We are all just doing our best to keep our companies and routines going while juggling the responsibilities of being parents, so that feeling of all being in it together is bonding us.