4 Women in Cannabis, 20 Questions 

Did you know that cannabis is male or female and that only the female plant grows large buds? Did you know that a female plant can grow with zero male plants around?

Happy 420! It’s the cannabis lover holiday; the happy celebration of beautiful plant Cannabis; the healer, the savior, the most beautiful. Why the emphasis on 4 and 20? This month is the first time in history that it is 420 all month long. April is 4, the year is 2020420.

In honor of that, the most perfect way to celebrate 420 is by writing this piece- honoring canna bosses!

In honor of the first time in history that it’ll be 420 all month long, Candid Chronicle salutes:

Shenell Kres, Co-founder/ Co-owner of Humboldt.Farm 

We were interested in highlighting Shenell Kres because her story is amazing. A Washington state born and raised woman that started her career in cannabis at the age of 16. At 18, she moved to California to pursue her dream- a career in cannabis. She was homeless for a year, living out of her car with her dog. I wanted to learn more about Shenell before Cannabis. Things like: what the forces, reasons, chain of events occurred in life to make her so resilient and committed to cannabis.

Your childhood- what was it like- what did you struggle with?

“My childhood was pretty good. I remember being young and not understanding why we didn’t have fancy clothes and things a lot of the other kids had. But looking back on it, I realize we always had everything we needed and my parents worked their asses off to make sure of it.

I was pretty happy when I was really young- before I started to get bullied about my weight and height. I’ve always been taller than all of the other girls and most of the boys too. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been overweight. It didn’t bother me so much until I got into middle school and people started to make fun of me about it.

I never went to a school dance with a boy, while all of my other friends did. I would just tag along with them and dance by myself. I never had a boyfriend. I watched all of my friends get excited about new relationships and date the boys I wanted to.

I would always skip the events where we had to be in bathing suits as much as possible. I lived most of my childhood in a state of insecurity, trying to find a way to make all of the other kids like me.”

Did you have any trouble in school; any learning challenges/disabilities?

“I was very good in school up until the 10th grade when I got a car and started to do drugs. I was a straight-A student and did some special after school programs only offered to the kids who were at the top of their class. I played basketball for five years.

I wasn’t a bully but I did get bullied, which in turn didn’t make me very nice to a lot of those people in later years. I did get into quite a few fights in high school. I had taken a lot of shit from people for many years and I wanted it to stop.

I figured if people were scared of me, they wouldn’t want to make fun of me anymore. Looking back on it, I’m actually glad I wasn’t always attractive because- I had to work harder than the girls who were. My work ethic thrived because of it while my self-esteem suffered.”

You left home at 18, can you discuss the move from WA to CA? 

“When I was 18, I started dating my first boyfriend. I was on probation at the time, and had a very busy schedule between trying to graduate high school and keeping up with “drug court” as they called it. I was absolutely in love with him, or so I thought.

I mean he was my first everything. After only 4 months, he cheated on me. I was devastated and took him back because I was young and dumb. I was actually convinced I would never find another person to love me because I didn’t think I was anybody worth being around. I blamed myself.

He left me again for the same girl just a week after we got back together. It was hard for me to see them flaunt their relationship around our small town. I got off probation right before he had cheated on me and I was finally free from everything.

A friend of mine had hitchhiked to San Francisco and he called me right on time. I hadn’t entertained the thought of leaving while I was with my boyfriend, but at the time, I was freshly brokenhearted and ready to mend it in a new city. I threw a mattress in the back of my truck, grabbed the only $80 I had to my name and dipped out to California!”

What struggles did you face while homeless? 

“There were so many dangerous situations; I’m lucky to be alive. I chose to partake in casual drug use while I was “on the road” and I saw a lot of my friends die along the way. I’m very fortunate that my will power is strong and I never got into an extreme addiction phase.

I dabbled and then I moved on. I had a lot of fun with psychedelics which was my main squeeze while I was traveling. When I was homeless-I was truly living. I went to 40 states without a care in the world or responsibility on my mind. It was about the people and adventures.

I wouldn’t trade that time in my life for anything in the world and I wouldn’t do a damn thing different. It wasn’t until I was living in Oakland, in hotels, where I experienced my first sexual assault.”

So, what door opened and who was on the other side when your life changed? 

“My life changed gradually when I started to learn to hustle cannabis in larger weights. As a teen, I would sell dime bags, but when I started to move pounds, I started to make money like I’d never seen in my life.

My best friend who I was homeless alongside, taught me so much of what I know. We literally ate out of a trash can together. He made and lost plenty of money, and knew how to make moves no matter where he was. He was never down for very long and when we met, we were both were at our lowest.

We came up together in the biggest way. We had a falling out years ago, but I know he would say we both made each other who we are today. We couldn’t have done it without one another.

When I started to make more than what I was spending on gas and food to live, I moved to a raggedy hotel in Oakland where I at least had a roof over my head. It was my low expectations for quality of life at the time- that allowed me to save and hustle the proper way to get to where I am today. For that I am forever grateful.”

Aesha Goins, Owner of Black Joy ConsultingGreen Bridge Consulting, and Blackabis

Aesha, is involved in so much! She is a community builder, supporter, and educator. Her passion is so inspiring! She stomps the pavement in this industry, and while doing so, helping so many. For example, not too long ago, Aesha hosted an Instagram live series where she provided five business tips in 5 minutes. Candid Chronicle wanted to find out how she balances all that she does in Nevada, like running her business, blog, and lobbying.

Can you tell me a little about your childhood and life before cannabis? 

“I was a regular student. I wasn’t an exceptionally smart student. I daydreamed a lot. My parents were typically glad if I turned in my homework (shaking my head). I attended a trade school in high school- Cosmetology became my lifesaver. I went from being an average student to an above-average and evolved student.”

You have to be the hardest working woman in Cannabis: Black Joy Consulting, Green Bridge Consulting, and Blackabis, can you share information about each and how they were born? 

“Black Joy Consulting is my coaching and consulting firm. I am a business coach by trade, and I needed to create a space that wasn’t necessarily a Cannabis business- but more of a Cannabis adjacent business. Black Joy Consulting focuses on government and community affairs. We coach non and for-profit businesses to success along with assisting in community engagement and government affairs.

Greenbridge is my partners and I cannabis acquisition company. My partners and I were finding ourselves in unique opportunities to partner with Cannabis brands. Greenbridge was established to accommodate that need.

Blackabis is my blog. It is my baby. She is the reason I am. I started Blackabis because I was having difficulties expressing myself in the marketplace. It seemed the Black Woman didn’t exist in the legal Cannabis marketplace. I was dying and I needed to breathe. Blackabis is my breath.”

You were a Lobbyist for the 2016 and 2019 Nevada Legislature; can you share insight into your work and efforts at the time? 

“Ah… lobbying. In my opinion, it is the most impactful thing I have ever done- EVER! In both sessions, I was successful in working with legislatures to add some inclusive language to the Nevada policy.

In the 80th session, the Governor signed language that would include a Cannabis emerging small business model. Much like the Nevada GROW program, it will offer a space for small cannabis businesses to take advantage of the marketplace with the assistance of the Governor’s office.”

You are described as “a visionary,” entrepreneur with a passion for micro-business development and cannabis advocacy,” can you share more about your passion for micro-business development in the cannabis space?

“In 2017, the SBA stated that 48% of all employment in America came from small businesses. In 2015, the Census reported 2.6 million black-owned business firms in America. I can openly say there “may” be approximately 50 black-owned cannabis businesses. That doesn’t include cannabis adjacent businesses.

I am saying state-licensed cannabis businesses. There are so few black owners that EVERY SINGLE TIME a black owner gets a license in a state, it becomes national news. I want to move to a space where there are so many of us, we can’t count. I believe the recipe for that is to introduce vertically integrated small business models.”

Can you share information and insight about the team of people that you work with to make this all happen? 

“I work closely with the state legislatures, and recently started an organization called CEIC, Cannabis Equity and Inclusion Community, or Community Equity and Inclusion Coalition. My organization focuses on Equity and Inclusion policies in cannabis and other industries. We teach civics classes that empower my community to lobby for policies that are more equitable and inclusive for people of color.”

Melana Smith, Owner of Melana Wellness

Melana was diagnosed with inoperable Anaplastic Astrocytoma and wasn’t expected to live longer than 2 years. After declining traditional treatments, she opted the natural route and treated with Cannabis oil (RSO), herbs, alkaline diet, and essential oils. The doctors told her that it wasn’t real treatment but, it worked! Nine months later, her tumor was gone!

Can you tell me a little about your childhood, goals, teenage life, and adult life, pre-Melana Wellness?

“I was born in Long Beach, CA. My mom was a single parent who had me when she was 16. My brother was born with special needs and was very violent, so my mom kept me as active as possible to keep me from harm. I became a martial artist, musician, and scholar-athlete.

Growing up, I thought I wanted to be a doctor; I knew I wanted to help people. My family got me accepted and enrolled in college when I was in 6th grade. I had my first semester of college completed before I started high school.

I played softball in college and was majoring in Biochemistry. That’s when I met my husband. Two years later we eloped to Vegas alone and didn’t tell our families for 2 years! We knew they weren’t going to approve. He was 19 and I was 20. It was the best decision ever!”

How did cannabis become a method of treatment for you- how was it introduced as medicine for your diagnoses?

“I was scared when I got diagnosed. My doctors didn’t expect me to live longer than two years due to the aggressive nature of the tumor. I didn’t want to do radiation due to the low success rate, and high recurrence of it causing cancer later in the future. Chemo was out of the question.

It didn’t seem smart to ingest something that wasn’t even supposed to come in contact with my skin. I was already under 100 pounds, weak, with no appetite, and vomiting daily. With a 2% success rate, I knew I wouldn’t survive it.

I reached out to a friend that I knew had brain tumors, and now, all tumors gone. I asked him what he did, and he told me I needed to get some cannabis oil (RSO) ASAP. He said that he ingested the oil, and it killed the tumor. He said it would help in more ways than I could imagine. It sounded too good to be true, but I was desperate for healing.

I sought out the oil high and low. I was desperate to find it, but it was hard to find. I went to so many dispensaries asking if they had it, and most people had no idea what it was. My friend who told me about the oil saw I was in bad shape, miserable, and emaciating. He invited me to his home. When I arrived, he greeted me with a tablespoon of RSO and shoved it in my mouth. The pain immediately started to subside. Nothing else had given me relief!

He handed me a full jar of RSO and told me to take a shit load. Those were my dosing instructions. He didn’t charge me a penny. When I got home, I had an appetite! I was excited, but scared to eat because I would always vomit. I didn’t vomit and that night, I slept for the first time in 3 weeks. My seizures stopped too. I knew that night that the oil was the truth, and could help save my life after the pharmaceuticals failed me. I quit all my meds, went through terrible withdraws, and decided to only use natural methods for healing.”

How did Melana Wellness get started and who helps make it all happen? 

“When I saw what cannabis and natural medicine could do, I set out on a mission to educate and help as many people as possible. When I was sick there was no manual. It was hard for me to get RSO consistently. I didn’t know the proper dosage, and I didn’t know what herbs or food I needed. I didn’t know anything! I was desperate for help.

So, Melana Wellness was formed out of me being the person I wish I had when I was sick. I wish someone could have given me some of the answers to my questions. I teach people how to deal with the doctors, what to expect, what products they need, and where to find the most affordable and effective ones.

I also share success stories to help give them hope. I became this person for other people because it’s what I needed when I was sick. People need to know that others can relate, that they are not alone, and that they should never give up no matter how bad things may seem.

My husband is my partner in all things. We both left our jobs and have been all in! It’s been awesome. I’m fortunate- I am able to hire my friends to help handle the daily operations. It’s great to work with people who have your back and are as serious as you are about what they do. I have an amazing team!”

Why did you decide to gift cannabis to others with medical conditions/diagnoses? 

“I know how it feels to not be able to afford it, and be without. If someone didn’t donate it to me, I wouldn’t be alive today.

A lot of people don’t know the healing powers of Cannabis, RSO in particular. I hate that people are suffering when there is natural relief! I know how it feels to be in agonizing pain and misery. You turn into a skeptic when you are sick and you feel like you have tried everything with no results.

I donate it to people so they can try and see for themselves. If I can help ease someone’s pain, help them live a better life, I am going to do it!”

Looking ahead five years, what has Melana Wellness accomplished? 

“In five years, Melana Wellness has globally educated and brought natural healing back to the forefront of people’s minds when they think of treatments for their ailments, and everyday life.”

Tokeativity, The Global Feminist Community for Active Cannabis Culture

“Representation, balance, and equality- in an industry never seen before- with women at the forefront”, is this organizations mission. So, of course we had to find out about the founders. In a world that tries to limit the voice of a woman, this organization comes in roaring.

Can you tell me a bit about the life of the founders of Tokeativity- childhood into adult life- pre Toketivity?

“Lisa Snyder is the daughter of an Emmy Award winning CBS television video engineer and who grew up in New Jersey organizing the neighborhood children. She has since used the combined efforts of technology and live events to create communities across the country.

She established her own nationwide women’s benefits, local women’s festivals, a feminist non-profit community in New York City, and a meetup for bisexual & lesbian women that’s been active since 2008.

After losing both parents to cancer in her 20’s, she passionately partnered her community building, feminist event planning, and web skills with fellow event planner, cannabis entrepreneur and community builder, Samantha Montanaro, to create Tokeativity in 2016.

Samantha Montanaro grew up as a frog loving, wild child in the countryside of SE Wisconsin with a family who was known for their epic farm parties that featured live music, bonfires, delicious food, and community. After moving to Chicago in the early 2000’s, Sam worked in visual communications for an edgy LED company, designing signage and custom installations for some of Chicago’s top restaurants and bars.

After moving to Portland in 2014, Sam launched her first business, Prism House, one of the first cannabis consumption forward spaces after recreational cannabis legalization in Oregon. After meeting Lisa Snyder in 2016, the two decided to launch Tokeativity, amidst one of the most pivotal elections in our country’s history.”

How did the birth of Tokeativity happen and why?

“Lisa thought of the concept and name of Tokeativity, while making vision boards with friends. Women shatter stoner stigmas by being active, creative, and energetic cannabis consumers and as legalization was coming to light, Lisa knew she could take her feminist community building skills to the next level.

Tokeativity was made to offer a space for women to feel empowered in their own skin with cannabis, creativity, and connection. With steam behind Prism House’s popularity, when Lisa met Samantha her seeds sprouted into reality very quickly! What started as an event series became a unique women’s community that was hungry for feminist-forward cannabis gatherings.”

What does Toketivity mean by “join the revolution”?

“We are living amidst a great awakening of so many things- the ability to heal yourself with plants, movement and mindfulness as almost a religion and what immense power a community of people who help each other provides to the greater good. We believe in some core words and anyone who reads them and is like, “YES”, should join this revolution! The words are Creativity, Feminism, Active, Cannabis, Culture, Community.”

What struggles did you face with launching this global community for women?

“Creating a women’s space is not easy. Creating cannabis consumption friendly space is not easy. Some of the very laws that were passed to protect marginalized communities’ right to organize have been used against groups like ours.

Jurisdictions that have passed adult-use cannabis seem to not consider the fact that people want to get together to consume cannabis. Also, growing a successful business on paper based on empowering women is sensitive – especially to us. We care more about each woman that comes to our events than we do about the dollar.

We have had to find the balance between being savvy business owners, while existing in the very patriarchal society that we live in. There are all kinds of struggles, but none so great that we cannot overcome! The power of this movement is more than enough to get us up every day ready to create magical change together!”

There are chapters in South Africa and Canada- what other countries is Tokeativity hoping to establish chapters in?

“We have India, the UK, Guatemala, Mexico, and other countries in sight. The cannabis and feminist movement is global and our goal is to create a massive, global network of women and allies that choose each other for resources and support.

Social commodities can weigh more than gold itself. People have a deep inherent need for connection. In this paradox of easy interconnectedness via the internet, people have never felt so alone. We bridge the gap between online and in-person for a common goal – to feel better in our everyday lives.”