As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brianna Bowes.
Brianna Bowes is a cannabis industry leader and founder of Nexx Holdings, a network of expanding cannabis service lines, products and entities such as clinics, vending machines and restaurants. She has a vision for the U.S. cannabis industry that protects it from turning into Big Pharma. Instead her goal is for the cannabis industry to focus on research, conscious development and helping people learn how to use cannabis for health benefit, whether medical or aesthetic.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
My first encounter with the cannabis industry is not an unfamiliar tale. At a young age, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type 1, a disorder that needs constant medication and has no cure. I was heavily medicated for years, and unfortunately saw no improvement. At a truly desperate point in my life, a prior boss suggested I try CBD. I laughed at the idea, as I had no education on the compound, and the benefits of it were only so recently discovered and published. Not only did I lack the knowledge of the medicinal properties of the product, but it was extremely expensive. I couldn’t fathom juggling my medical bills, along with a product in which I questioned its efficacy with such a high price tag.
Within 10 minutes of utilizing a heavily dosed CBD vaporizer, I could feel the shift in my body, mind and soul. My mind wasn’t racing, my anxieties were melting away, and I was at peace. For the first time in my whole life, I felt like I found myself; I was centered. Since beginning this treatment, I have yet to experience what the medical industry calls ‘episodes.’
After this experience, I was Immediately moved to research the industry deeper and more closely. From my discoveries, I knew it was my purpose and calling to help others obtain this life-changing product for a fraction of its standard inflated cost and to push the industry in a direction for good.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My biggest plunge into this industry was becoming a franchisee in a medical marijuana company. My first location was in South Beach, and I would get patients from all walks of life. Among these patients, I came across a remarkable woman. She was a veteran who suffered from numerous ailments but was at a loss with managing her health; as a result, she developed an addiction to opiates that were prescribed by her doctors. I saw the pain in her eyes along with the effort to do better. I would frequently sit with her for hours. The products I was expected to sell were unreasonably priced, and the acquisition of a medical marijuana card fell into the same category. With no help available from the VA, I took it upon myself to supply her with CBD products at almost no cost. I found myself at odds with my franchisor for issuing such discounts to people who truly needed it. I encountered my first of many challenges in regards to greed vs. good in this industry. I saw what was driving this specific company, how my patients were suffering, and knew that it was not for me. I learned that there’s now a fine line between cannabis and big pharma, and it’s up to people like me to ensure the industry does not go in the wrong direction. This industry has the potential to be extremely lucrative, but many confuse the need to be “important” with the need of “doing what’s important.”
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In this industry, you can imagine that there are plenty of funny moments and always room for lessons. I will never forget the day I learned the importance of dosing. As I began to experiment while educating myself about the product, I apparently got confused and took it upon myself to eat a bag of 1,000 mg gummy bears. Fast forward 3 hours: I fell asleep mid-sentence in front of all of my colleagues who later advised against it. It was a valuable experience that taught me the importance of micro-dosing to find your perfect pairing, and to take the recommended dosage suggestions.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
As a Hispanic woman, our family morals and traditions are usually anti-marijuana. I kept my involvement in this space relatively quiet, as I was afraid of the backlash I would receive from my relatives. Come to find out, my aunt was a skilled marijuana saleswoman back in the day. After discovering this fun fact, I felt far more confident in opening my cannabis centered world to my family. I think cannabis and family is a particularly hilarious connection, because I have discovered that everyone down to my grandmother utilizes the cannabis plant; we were all just so nervous of everyone else’s reaction that we used it in secrecy.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
It’s unbelievably difficult to be taken seriously as a young woman in any industry. There are many people to whom I can attribute my success; however, one person truly saw my motivation and passion, and believed I would succeed as long as I didn’t lose those sentiments either. Shawn Alarcon, the owner of Wynwood’s Glass and Vape, hired me, trained me, educated me, and humbled me. He taught me all there is to know in the cannabis space and encouraged me to branch out on my own. The most difficult moment of my career was leaving his management team. After losing a loved one to cancer, he has ensured that the healing powers of cannabis are within everyone’s reach, to the best of his ability. Not only will he concoct a personalized regimen for a perfectly good stranger who is suffering, but also he has seemingly saved lives of many. Beyond this, he’s known as the “Wynwood Jesus”, as last year he personally chased down a drunk driver who did a hit-and-run in the middle of the night. He bolted to his car, chased down to perpetrator, physically removed him from his car, and ensured he was contained until the police arrived. I’ve never been prouder to have a friend like him. He is a hero and a testament to the belief that people are inherently kind.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are currently re-launching our infused juice brand, Locus Control. We absolutely love this project, as we were able to formulate the flavors ourselves, and I must admit they are all pretty delicious. I love edible or drinkable forms of medicinal cannabis. It’s a wonderful option for individuals who do not necessarily wish to taste or smell a trace of the product during consumption and be able to easily track their dosage.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Despite great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry. According to this report in Entrepreneur, less than 25 percent of cannabis businesses are run by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and/or c) society to support greater gender parity moving forward?
There are so many avenues that need to be fixed in regards to gender parity, but some changes I believe that are attainable would be a change of how women view competition in the workplace, social views of women in regards to the profession, and a concept I’ve seen correctly portrayed by Andrew Yang – the freedom dividend. I’ve personally experienced unnecessary competition among women in respect to this profession. As there seems to be such limitations on seats for women at the table, we tend to see another as the make or break for our next move. This ties in with my next issue of general social views on women and professionalism. There doesn’t have to be so many limitations for us anymore. We must change how we view ourselves and each other to truly excel. Women do not need words of encouragement anymore, we need avenues and opportunities.
You are a “Cannabis Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non-intuitive things one should know to succeed in the cannabis industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
Rule Number One: Trust no one and everyone.
This industry is riddled with fallacies and over-exaggeration. Before working with anyone, I suggest vetting them through a trusted network of industry professionals and listen to your gut feeling.
Rule Number Two: Get ‘high’ on your own supply.
If you wouldn’t use the product yourself, why would you produce it for others? You need to know your clientele and understand their needs. The cannabis plant is unbelievably powerful and goes far beyond getting high. If you put in the effort and produce quality product, your target demographic will notice and become a repeat consumer.
Rule Number Three: Just because you smoked once in high-school, doesn’t make you a cannabis connoisseur.
It’s the same as liking food and wanting to open your own restaurant; you’d be Gordon Ramsay’s worst nightmare. Many big players see the growth potential in this industry and throw millions at ludicrous projects. You see failure rates so high due to poor planning and market research. There’s no way to predict what is thrown at us next, but research is key in order to be best prepared.
Rule Number Four: Expect the Unexpected.
What a ridiculous rule! We are the pioneers of this space. In Florida, we voted for access to cannabis and spent two years fighting our own government for what was rightfully ours. We fought, we won, we had it taken away, and given back, and I’m quite nauseous from this rollercoaster! Keep some Dramamine on stand-by, because regulations love to keep you on your toes.
Rule Number Five: Regulations aren’t always evil.
While I travel, I notice the lack of consistency throughout the cannabis industry. We have the ‘seed to sale’ tracking systems in place, which is a marvel in itself, but we need to welcome higher standards. When recreational first came about, people in Colorado were able to grow in their closet and sell to dispensaries. Anyone would produce and that dilutes quality in the industry. I welcome reasonable rules and regulations, as long as it doesn’t hinder my patients’ ability to obtain and utilize their medication.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
I’m excited for us to have access to clinical trials, see non-violent marijuana related convictions expunged, and provide a safer alternative to opiates for pain management. We have been held back for years, and are only now obtaining the ability to experiment and make right by those who are wrongfully imprisoned. From changing the economic standing of bankrupt small towns, to killing cancer cells, we are paving the way for a better future ‘one nug at a time’!
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
Only three?! The lack of focus on medicinal properties, the inability to see beyond previous convictions, and product consistency. As we see the United States opening its doors to cannabis, we see a decline in the drive to educate and promote the life-changing benefits this plant can provide. The rush, it seems, is what can get you stoned the fastest and cheapest. As my grandmother says, one cannot fight our natural drive to do what we want to do. All should be able to utilize this plant, however, coming from a recreational user as myself, I only discovered I was overmedicating once I got educated, and I quickly realized the consequences I was facing from it. As recreational is rolling in, we need the ability to obtain education in colleges and universities, especially as numerous medical health professionals are suggesting utilizing marijuana rather than harmful, addictive drugs such as the infamous Oxycodone.
As we continue to allow people to profit from this, we need to expunge ALL previous wrongful convictions of non-violent marijuana related offenses. People are sitting in jail for a gram of mid-grade weed from the 1970’s.
A huge issue I’m finding is consistency of product. You could smoke Sour Diesel and absolutely love the way it reacts with your body but buy it again and have an incredibly different experience than before. This is because our terpene and cannabinoid profiles are all over the place and have absolutely no baseline. Patients, or even just general recreational consumers are having issues finding their perfect match without companies supplying consistent, reliable product. I will say Liberty Health Sciences in Florida are doing some amazing things in respect to this issue, and I hope other dispensaries follow in their footsteps.
What are your thoughts about federal legalization of cannabis? If you could speak to your Senator, what would be your most persuasive argument regarding why they should or should not pursue federal legalization?
Federal legalization of cannabis has the potential to improve our economy, drastically lower crime rates, and allow people to continue doing exactly what they’ve been doing for thousands of years without having to obtain products from the black market. If we do not have a safe path for the general public, they will look to those providing who do not have the education to provide quality product. History has shown that this plant is here to stay, regardless of regulation. We can either come together and explore the medicinal and financial benefits or allow other countries to reap the benefits of discovery.
Today, cigarettes are legal, but they are heavily regulated, highly taxed, and they are somewhat socially marginalized. Would you like cannabis to have a similar status to cigarettes or different? Can you explain?
Cigarettes have absolutely no benefit so it’s not even comparable. It’s like apples and pears. May seem the same, but they are completely different. I agree with strict regulations to ensure quality and consistency of product, but if we must be highly taxed, I’d like assurance that it’s going back to the community in which the war on drugs would be collectively alienated and ruined. I want to see this money providing assistance to those who have developed addictions to medications prescribed and collectively pushed by Big Pharma.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite “life lesson quote” would have to be “No black scorpion is falling upon this table.” My background is clinical psychology and my favorite story was Alfred North Whitehead and B.F. Skinner, speaking of the inability to account for the randomness of the human mind. My life is a lot like this quote; I don’t know what is going to happen next, especially in the current randomness of the cannabis sector. However, Skinner went on to create the ‘Verbal Behavior’ project (which took him twenty years) and I intend to work in this space much longer than that.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There are many movements I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of and have learned much about extending a hand and becoming more of an empath. If I could inspire a movement myself, I would truthfully move to provide greater assistance to our veterans through these medicinal compounds. The government plays favorites, and our veterans unfortunately don’t always receive the best. I’ve been surrounded by stories of pain, anguish, and sacrifice, and I believe we can cure so much without sacrificing any more. As a company, we are as active as can be, and provide any of our patients with possibilities and assistance to treat themselves.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!
Thank you so much!