‘This is not a social network’: Q&A with new Women Grow chair Chanda Macias

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As owner of the National Holistic Healing Center, a Washington DC dispensary that serves roughly 2,000 patients, Chanda Macias has found success pairing scientific and medical expertise with corporate experience.

She hopes to use that same formula to help turn around Women Grow, the once high-flying cannabis professionals group that more recently has experienced the closure of chapters and disgruntled members.

Macias took over as chairwoman of Women Grow’s Board of Managers in February.

She replaced Jane West, who co-founded the for-profit venture in 2014 to empower women in the marijuana industry by providing networking opportunities, mentoring and business support.

Before launching National Holistic in 2015, Macias earned a Ph.D. in cell biology, gained renown as a cancer expert and worked at Colgate-Palmolive, so she brings both medical and corporate experience to Women Grow.

Marijuana Business Daily spoke with Macias about how she intends to give back to the group she believes helped launch her cannabis career.

What are the issues you want to address?

I have four action items that I want to work on:

  • Education needs to be accessible to everyone, so they can understand how medical marijuana can help.
  • I want women who are doing business in this industry to have access to mentorships and possible internships.
  • Political action. We need somebody on Capitol Hill.
  • I want women to support women-owned businesses through a special-purpose vehicle that can allow entry-level seed money to help a small business start up or sustain them.

How do you plan to achieve your goal on education?

Education will be available through the website. We have to revamp what we have now.

We are going to make sure there is an education portal for the public, so they can understand what medical marijuana is and why it could be an option.

We’re also going to start requiring that local meetings start making a certain amount of time for education. We want knowledge shared in those meetings.

How would the special-purpose vehicle work and what would it do?

It would be a fund to which members would contribute, and the money would be paid out to businesses that qualify.

It would also include women who are researchers.

If you’re studying the plant and you need to do a clinical trial or a literature review, I want to be able to subsidize that.

It could also be someone that’s interested in owning their own line of products and they need to do R&D.

In what condition did you find Women Grow when you started and how do you avoid the same pitfalls?

I know there has been a lot of negative in terms of how Women Grow has been perceived and what it has done to people, and I sympathize with them because it might have been very unfair.

But I can speak on my experience: Without those women, I don’t think I would have the self-confidence to do what I’m doing today.

And I have to focus on all the other women who can impact this industry in a positive way by giving them the opportunity to interact with us.

There have been issues, and there will be issues.

I won’t be able to solve everything. But I will make sure we provide a solid base where people can be heard.

Can you tell us about what you’d like to do on Capitol Hill?

I have tapped Saphira Galoob – principal of the Liaison Group, a Washington DC lobbying firm – to head that effort for us.

She’ll be focused on women’s rights in cannabis.

I want to ensure that parents who have a medical marijuana card for their children – and the children – have innate protections.

For example, in medical marijuana states, kids should be allowed to have medical marijuana administered to them in their school, rather than having to go off campus to receive their medical marijuana and feel stigmatized.

At the same time, many parents who have to administer medical marijuana to their kids aren’t therefore able to get work and don’t have insurance for medical cannabis.

I would like to structure Women Grow’s nonprofit aspect to be able to subsidize health care for these patients.

This is a program I’m developing now – it’s called Children Grow.

As businesses, it’s our social responsibility to sustain the community that is giving back to us.

This is not a social network.

There are social networking events that create conversations, but after that, something needs to happen.

That’s patient education, supporting women-owned businesses and giving them mentorship and internship opportunities.

You’ve been able to reopen some of the chapters that shut down. How have you done that, and what’s your plan for local chapters moving forward?

We’re at 17 chapters.

We don’t want to repeat history and grow too fast.

We’re rolling out a training program for our market leaders. We can launch new markets once the training program has been successfully completed.

We’re onboarding three new markets in April, and I don’t want to add more than three new markets per month.

I need to vet individuals.

I need to know they have all the support they need to be successful, like professional development and constant improvement.

Why is it important that a woman of color is in this position?

The war on drugs, especially in terms of incarceration, has had a disproportionate impact on minority communities.

I hope my participation in this form encourages minorities and minority women to get involved and be able to benefit from something that’s resulted in so much incarceration and other injustices.

How will your experiences in the scientific world and the corporate world help you with Women Grow?

We had goals that we had set in the corporate structure, and we had to detail a plan to achieve those goals, and we’d be held accountable at the end of the year in our performance reviews.

So, in terms of goal setting, it’s important you know what your scope of work will be and why you’re doing it.

As a research scientist who brought billion-dollar brands to the marketplace, I know exactly what that process looks like.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Omar Sacirbey can be reached at omars@mjbizdaily.com