By: DiAnA McElroy
DiAnA was the Community Outreach Specialist for one of the Original 12 license holders a vertically integrated MSO in New Jersey. She is a well-respected cannabis professional. In her previous role, she split her time between two dispensaries they opened and the buildout and start-up of the cultivation facility. “All hands on deck” was the mantra and she thrives on the team building energy and collaboration.
She has the unique perspective of watching the complete cycle of the plant; (From Seed to Sale).
“This is an agricultural industry and its impact on tax revenue, real estate, and retail are important for the economy and commerce. “Her role within the organization was to be a bridge between the community, municipalities, and the company, as well as being a liaison with various media outlets. She has served on multiple advisory boards and as the SME (subject matter expert) for local police departments on the ever-changing legal landscape.
DiAnA started her firm High High, LLC in 2021 and is the CEO and founder. DiAnA believes that education and open and honest conversations are the only way to remove the stigma and misinformation around cannabis so that qualified patients can find the right medication. DiAnA believes that cannabis is a strong new industry coming into states like New Jersey but needs to be developed with responsibility and realistic expectations to help build generational wealth for those most impacted by the war on drugs.
DiAnA’s firm hosted the Canna Preneur Conference that her firm High curated along with The Rothman Institute at Fairleigh Dickinson University with Sam Delgado the Vice Chair of the CRC as the keynote speaker. This event was geared at Entrepreneurs such as herself who are looking for opportunities within the cannabis space. She saw the train coming and jumped on board and now wants to teach others the ancillary opportunities that are out there.
DiAnA was just named on The Insider 100: Cannabis Power List a tribute to the Top 100 influential voices in the cannabis debate. This spring she is adding another title to her resume as “college professor” where she will be teaching a Cannabis Entrepreneur class at her alma mater Fairleigh Dickenson University.
How did this stigmatized housewife make it on the NJ Insider 100: Cannabis Power List?
Cannabis and I…not something I would ever have put in the same sentence as I was a stigmatized suburb housewife.
Cannabis Brings Out Our Commonality and Our Differences, But Passion is Something We All Share, When Christina DiArcangelo first asked me to be on her podcast I was so pleased. As we logged on for the recording, I noticed a couple of things; she had glasses similar to mine and the theme for our podcast was the similarities we shared. This is a common theme for me when I meet people for the first time.
One of the most flattering attributes someone can give you is what traits you share. I love to find the common ground because that is how we build community. The meaning of which is “having a particular characteristic in common.” According to Google. For Christina and I our shared community is cannabis; something we are both passionate about for various reasons in the research and healthcare field.
I found cannabis by chance as a stay-at-home mom who was trying to break her way back into the corporate world. I started realising that my smart friends were incorporating weed back into our parties. Oh, they were very sly, but it was there again, and I became curious. Some of my friends were using it as medicine to help with migraines, sleep issues, and other ailments. Some just out and out enjoyed it more than alcohol. I personally had a weird relationship with the product.
When I discovered it as an older teen, I was not a fan, especially with the amount of product consumed. It made me lethargic and, being a very social person that enjoys conversing and dancing did not see the appeal. I experimented a little but soon dropped it for other recreational preferences. Fast forward 25 years and the smell was once again engulfing me. I still remember as an adult “bad kid” the first time I once again inhaled; it was fascinating, and I felt wonderful and light and learned very quickly that controlled consumption made all the difference as to why I now liked it. I did not know prior that small quantities were all that was required for me as the new products out there was not our dime-bag weed.
I started looking around at job opportunities in the industry but all I really understood was the retail side as I had gone out to dispensaries to investigate. I called the first 6 license holders here in Jersey and ask how I can get in the retail side. I can remember to this day that during one of those calls it was pointed out that I was being narrow-minded; this was the first conversation I had around the ancillary opportunities to be had.
They blew my mind with their candor as what they were saying was 100 percent true asI would learn (and now teach). I tend to be a very forward-facing person and tell everyone about my business or my passions as I like to make friends and have deep conversations. I started expressing my openness about the new sector of the economy. Someone from my community shared an article that a cultivation site was coming to a 100-year-old farm; I knew the place well as I would take my kids there weekly. I went to that first municipality meeting to hear who they were and what they were bringing. Prior, I had never really thought of cannabis in a holistic way, just the end product. I still remember the woman who was part of the executive team as she left a big impression. Her knowledge, edge, and, just passion got under my skin, and as a 40-something-year-old woman, I left wanting to be badass like her.
I followed the executives who were being escorted out by the police and asked if they would be hiring. I had one interview and was hired as a consultant and “town friendly” as almost everyone one else who had attended that meeting was there to oppose the industry as a whole.
I spent the first year as their consultant in a deep dive educating myself by going to municipal meetings for all the surrounding towns to listen, learn, and discuss. One of my many roles was to relay the information back to the company about what people’s oppositions were. It was a real eye-opener as to how stigmatized this plant really had become and I took the brunt of the ‘passionate hate’ for the company and industry. The pandemic hit and the meetings became virtual but by then (2019) the cultivation site was starting; seeds were planted and I was offered a full-time role as one of the first 10 employees. My role was different each and every day as it was a startup and many things needed to get done. We ran job fairs and hired and onboarded 80 people in four months. We were both a construction site and a grow in parallel and were being educated by the very few who had opened markets prior.
We were working with the DOH who had just given us one of the next 6 licenses in the state. The company was awarded a vertical license which meant we were able to do everything. It was a privilege and an amazing opportunity to see the industry from seed to sale. We opened two dispensaries and once again the hiring and training process needed to begin but this time for retail.
My role of “community outreach”, was part of the process as the in-house educational classes I was given I was then tasked to give out to the community and our new employees. In this industry, education is vital. Last week I spoke at the first in-person meeting for the CRC here in Jersey and once again I repeated that education is a must in order to have a viable future. I look forward to building community and seeing the research which will be acquired once federal legalisation is acquired.