[dropcap class=”kp-dropcap”]S[/dropcap]ince you’re reading this magazine, the odds are good that you or someone you know could be described as a “weedhead.”
Meet Dasheeda Dawson. She’s The WeedheadTM, with the trademark to prove it. And she’s out to prove that you don’t need to grow, sell or extract cannabis to succeed in the industry.
“People focus a lot on the cultivation and the dispensing, and there are so many other spaces where people can play and be successful out of the gate without as much risk, and that’s the part I’m teaching about, the picks and the shovels,” says Dawson, 40, a former executive at large companies like Target Corporation and Victoria’s Secret. Dawson is now a CEO, cannabis consultant, author and activist.
“How do you participate in the cannabis space and capitalize on what cannabis is doing in multiple industries without necessarily having to go pay $60,000 for a licensing application, wait and see, and even if you do get it it’s going to be multiple years before you’re actually seeing revenue come from that business, which people don’t realize.”
It’s a typical week for Dawson. Phoenix on Monday. San Diego on Tuesday. Las Vegas on Wednesday. New York on Thursday. Chicago on Friday. Always talking cannabis.
It wasn’t always like this for her. In fact, she didn’t even try the plant until the age of 19 and didn’t initially care for it.
“Most of the information I knew about weed came from the ‘just say no’ campaign. I knew my mom smoked it, because you could smell it in the house,” she said.
“She was still very productive so it didn’t seem bad, but we knew it was bad because some of my friends right in front of me would get harassed by the police and arrested based on what they were carrying,” Dawson recalled. “Basically, my childhood taught me to stay away from it.”
After graduating college with a degree in Molecular Biology at Princeton University, and an MBA from Rutgers Business School, she went into the corporate world, helping to bring multi-cultural hair products and plus-size garments to the shelves of the retail giant Target. A career in cannabis—which was still illegal in Minnesota where she lived—never crossed her mind.
And then tragedy changed it.
Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and came to live with her. Her mother’s recreational cannabis use became medicinal, helping her cope with the pain of the illness and the side effects of chemotherapy.
At the same time, Dawson had begun to feel various pains from a lifetime of athleticism.
“I felt like I was aging very fast, and my mom was finally like, ‘Come, smoke with me, this will help you,'” she said. “I could tell right away that it worked on all the various ailments I had. I didn’t come out of the closet because I didn’t want to lose my job, so I spent four years using cannabis pretty much daily. In our house it’s ‘Do we have sugar? Do we have coffee? Do we have cannabis?'”
Her mother finally succumbed to cancer in 2016, and for Dawson, nothing was ever the same again.
“It became very clear to me that education in a more formal way—not just me speaking at events—needed to happen, so the workbook was born of the need to share more in a mass way the ‘cheat codes’ for the cannabis space, particularly for communities and neighborhoods like the one I came from (in Brooklyn) that were most devastated from the ‘War on Drugs.’”
Opportunity to be Better
The same year her mother passed away, Dawson found herself in an Arizona medical cannabis dispensary. It struck her as amateurish, with products in Tupperware containers with handwritten labels and a lack of uniformity, nothing like Target, where she still worked.
Cannabis had done so much for her and her mother. Maybe she could do something for cannabis?
“There was an opportunity to do better. It was still being targeted to the 18- to 25-year-old white male when the data was clear that women 35 to 55 were actually the fastest growing users of legal marijuana,” she said. “I just thought to myself, ‘We can do this better. How do I help? How do I support this?'”
So, she quit her job to launch a management consulting firm, Flora Buffalo. The same year she secured the web domain TheWeedhead.com, a blog chronicling her transition from a mainstream industry to cannabis and her efforts to help legitimize the latter.
The more she traveled and met people, the more she realized so many people from so many different backgrounds had so many questions. So, she decided to put her thoughts and advice onto paper.
“It became very clear to me that education in a more formal way—not just me speaking at events—needed to happen, so the workbook was born of the need to share more in a mass way the ‘cheat codes’ for the cannabis space, particularly for communities and neighborhoods like the one I came from (in Brooklyn) that were most devastated from the ‘War on Drugs,’” she explained.
Her book How to Succeed in the Green Rush was published in 2018. It was written for the newcomer who might not know much about cannabis, merging her scientific background with her business acumen into a guidebook.
One of her central themes is that those looking to enter the industry need to follow their particular strengths and passions and not just give up a career to grow pot.
“We need to figure out how to move faster and get legitimate faster. That means people using their current credentials they have in the mainstream and crossing them over to the cannabis space, as opposed to the lawyer who’s like, ‘I want to do edibles because I like to bake.’ I’m like, ‘Where is this coming from? Can you do lawyering in the industry? Because we need lawyers too,'” she said.
“I found there were too many people trying to reinvent themselves. And while that might have worked in the first wave, in order to be legitimate and diversify the industry quickly it’s just easier if you take the skills and the passion and credentials you have and apply them here.”
Because time is of the essence.
“Three months is more like two years, how quickly things change (in the cannabis industry). You don’t want to waste time focused in an area that is too crowded, too expensive or too risky. You want to go into the area that is best suited for you.”
It may be a winding path, but Dawson has found hers.