“The part that pushes the knife deep is that he (marijuana ex-convict) can’t even work in the industry in Nevada because it’s prohibited in Question 2. I am planning on changing that during this legislative session.”
The marijuana industry would most likely not be where it is today were it not for the passionate and relentless efforts of cannabis activists, including legacy operators, who risked it all to move the legalization agenda forward. This is not only true for the US but for other countries as well. Cannabis activism has been a global concerted effort towards “righting the wrongs” of the failed war on drugs and ensuring that cannabis is accessible to anyone who needs it.
The efforts of activism have been rewarded by state-level legalization, even though cannabis still remains illegal federally. Politicians, business leaders, musicians, and athletes are part of the community that is pushing for reforms in cannabis laws across different states. Some of the reforms that are high on the cannabis activism agenda include the controversial section 280E of the IRS which places a crippling tax burden on cannabis businesses, the SAFE Banking Act that will increase access to financial services for MRBs, and of course the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act that will see to it that cannabis is legalized federally. Several other reforms are being pushed for at the state level to make legalization more meaningful. As Tina Ulman notes, Nevada Question 2 prevents marijuana ex-convicts from taking part in the legal cannabis industry in Nevada. This means that so many people cannot engage meaningfully in an industry that they fought so hard to create. How ironical?
Tina is not only a business leader in the cannabis space but is also a passionate cannabis advocate with a deep desire to make positive amends in the criminal justice system. While serving as the Director of Brands of The Source+, she is also the President and co-founder of the Chamber of Cannabis in Nevada. In this interview, Tina narrates her journey into the cannabis industry and the different roles that she plays as a business leader and cannabis advocate as she also shares some insights into the cannabis industry in Nevada.
The cannabis industry is one that many would rather not associate with (stigmatized). How did your career path lead you here?
It was a 100% preparation meeting opportunity. My love for the cannabis plant, my professional skill set, and my desire to make a significant impact in the criminal justice system laid the foundation for my path.
I had worked in sales and marketing for 13 years after graduating from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and began consuming cannabis at that same time. It was the only thing that would help me sleep at night and calm my mind from the pressures I felt in my career.
I also had family members incarcerated for nearly 30 years because of unjustifiable laws explicitly created during the war on drugs era in Detroit. When I was almost 16, my then 17-year-old Chicano boyfriend of three years went to prison for being at a hotel party where someone was robbed for their drugs. Unfortunately, with no money for an attorney, he was given 13 years and served 11. The part that pushes the knife deep is that he can’t even work in the industry in Nevada because it’s prohibited in Question 2. I am planning on changing that during this legislative session.
Introduce the chamber of cannabis briefly and the role that you play there.
The Chamber of Cannabis is a 501(c) (6) business trade organization focused on driving cannabis commerce forward more inclusively, restoring justice, and positively impacting our community.
We function similarly to a Chamber of Commerce by supporting economic and personal development. We have been able to connect our industry so we can strengthen our resources and capabilities. We also have built solid relationships with our political and regulatory leaders so our ideas and solutions may be considered and implemented.
I am currently the President and co-founder of the Chamber and have the privilege to help lead the market in Nevada with other industry professionals and activists who respect the plant and are committed to building a more conscientious and thriving industry.
Introduce the Source+ briefly and the vision behind the brand.
We are a cannabis retailer with five locations across Nevada and one in Northampton, Mass. We pride ourselves on creating a normalized personal shopping experience and meeting people wherever they are in their cannabis journey.
The Source+ has done a great job at normalizing cannabis usage through education and having an inviting customer experience with high-quality products.
What does your role as Director of Brands, The Source, entail and what does your typical day look like?
I have the privilege of selling the brands we produce under The Source+’s license to other cannabis retailers in Nevada, bringing the brand to life in the market, and overseeing our corporate social responsibility initiatives.
My typical day consists of driving our wholesale business forward by building and maintaining relationships with accounts and colleagues. Leading meetings and training are a core part of my role to ensure industry professionals are knowledgeable and well-equipped to sell our products.
Building relationships with the non-profits we partner with for our monthly Round Up program is one of my favorite parts of my role. I have so much respect for people working to improve someone else’s lives, and supporting their efforts has been awesome. Learning about all the incredible ways organizations are helping real people in need of assistance is inspiring.
Women in cannabis leadership. Are women adequately represented and what are some of the challenges that female leaders in the industry often experience?
Women in cannabis are adequately represented at the entry-level, managerial, and director levels. However, there is still an opportunity for women to hold C-suite and ownership positions within the industry.
Female leaders can face challenges being respected and valued in the workplace. Working with allies and partners who want to elevate you and themselves is essential, or you will never have a winning team.
What would it take for minority communities (those adversely affected by the war on drugs) to build generational wealth in the cannabis industry?
Access to capital, low-interest loans, education, and resources to obtain and retain a license.
In terms of regulation, what is the one change that you would like to see to make the industry more “inclusive?”
I would like to see the tax money used for grants and very low-interest loans for those who do not have access to millions of dollars in cash or capital. We would increase the diversity in the ownership base, and the state could also make interest.
What’s next for Tina Ulman?
Continued progression. I want to see our market and community exceed at every level and be right there helping lead the charge with my colleagues and friends next to me.
I also deeply love the Las Vegas Arts District and want to see it develop well and intentionally, specifically regarding cannabis commerce and tourism. I want to play a more significant role in the area’s economic development soon.
You also can’t forget to enjoy the best cannabis on the most stunning beaches worldwide.
It was a great pleasure to have this one-on-one with Tina Ulman from The Source+ and the Chamber of Cannabis. Readers who wish to keep up with The Source are more than welcome to visit their website.