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Don’t call it marijuana. Don’t call it weed. And definitely don’t call it pot.
The preferred term among those who cultivate the crop is cannabis, and that distinction is one of the ways its industry leaders are trying to get the world to think about (oh, hell) weed in a different way. Here in Philly, those leaders were 25 women (and a few men dotted in) who gathered to join a new networking group called Women Grow, an organization empowering women to get into the cannabis growing and business development industry.
“Look, this is legit and it’s recognized by people with huge companies,” said Brielle Pettinelli, 27, the keynote speaker. “It’s not like a Cheech and Chong thing. Once a new image of cannabis comes to cities like Philadelphia, people will become more accepting.”
And last night in Center City, that image was the upstairs level of the swanky bar Vesper, tucked between Walnut and Locust streets in Rittenhouse. The event space itself was filled with a couple dozen professionals sipping drinks and discussing the ins and outs of growing cannabis in their homes.
There’s of course an elephant in the room: This stuff isn’t legal here yet. Sure, legislation has been introduced. But it could be years before the Pennsylvania legislature adopts anything close to a marijuana legalization bill. Twenty-three states have some form of law on the books that allows cannabis use for medical consumption, and four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the substance and allow for anyone to grow in their homes.
It’s been about a year since Philadelphia decriminalized marijuana for personal use and, since then, arrests in the city are down 77 percent as “it’s being normalized.” Now, those in the city caught with 30 grams or less of marijuana on them are fined $25 and sent on their way. Smoking in public yields a larger, $100 fine. But still no handcuffs.
So how does a group like Women Grow operate in a state like Pennsylvania?
“I’m actually excited to be in a prohibition state,” Pettinelli, a Villanova and Penn grad, said. “The possibilities excite me, and I’m more than happy to be a part of it. We can make great economic progress here.”
Women Grow started as a national organization about a year ago in Denver as a way to get more women into the cannabis industry. The theory is that because cannabis growth and business development is such a new industry, getting women and minorities in at the beginning to lead the charge is vital.
So Stephanie Thomas, a Penn grad from New Jersey who was working in commercial real estate, met leaders from Women Grow at a national convention earlier this year and decided it’d be high time to start a chapter in Philadelphia. For the last several months, she and other women from the area have worked to pull together the first Women Grow chapter here in the city that’s meant to bring together growers with industry leaders for networking and speaker series.
Last night, Pettinelli spoke to the group about her ROOT plant growth system, an at-home device that can be stuffed with seeds and can be used to grow everything from basil to tomatoes to, yep, cannabis. The system that currently goes for $299 is connected to an app that reminds the user when the water needs to be replaced or the plants need more light.
Pettinelli said ROOT, which was incubated by Dream It Ventures here in Philadelphia during its last cycle, is based in Silicon Valley and is taking pre-orders for the system. They plan to start shipping in the early part of next year.
For now, Thomas said she and her fellow advocates are working to educate each other and others about the potential benefits of cannabis use and growth here in Pennsylvania, and part of that, she says, has to come from changing the narrative.
“We have to lead by example and be upstanding citizens,” she said. “And we’re promoting women’s involvement in all this. One of these days, it will be legal.”
Anyone interested in learning more about or joining Women Grow can visit their website.