We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog post to bring you . . . an interview.
Yes, you read that right. In case you didn’t know, March is Women Making History Month.
We thought this would be a good opportunity to deviate from our regular blogs to highlight some women who are making history in the field of cannabis.
Last week, we had a cup of coffee with 4CC’s very own Nikki Byrum and Erin Sornsin, two women who are leaders in the CBD industry.
Tell us about your experience in the cannabis industry. Where did it all begin?
Nikki: I’ve been an advocate for cannabis since I was probably too young! I got my foot in the door with medical marijuana when it was legalized here in Colorado in 2002.
It was a weird time in the industry; people came in and literally said, “Here’s a jar of weed that I grew at home; want to carry it in your dispensary?”
As the industry evolved, I started growing marijuana medically on a larger scale for dispensaries. It was so great to have a mentor teach and train me on how to really grow good weed. It gave me a background and respect for it all.
Erin: I grew up in Durango, but I was still in high school when medical marijuana was legalized; some of my friends had their medical cards at 18. Many of my friends were stoners, so weed was just something I grew up around.
I didn’t see or experience growing until I went to college. I needed to find a way to make money, so I started trimming for people’s grows; it was quick cash (even though it wasn’t completely legal).
Soon, I had the opportunity to trim for a head grower who worked for a local dispensary, which got me a job in their cultivation department. I trimmed for eight hours per day every day for six months; it was exhausting. It’s amazing that trimming is so hard on your body!
After that, recreational marijuana became legalized, and that gave me the opportunity to start doing Metrc/ compliance tasks. Every plant has a tag, and the state tracks products to make sure nothing is coming in or out of the black market.
How has the industry changed over the years?
Nikki: Now that it’s grown recreationally, it’s on a huge scale. Back when I first started there was a lot more love—a lot more attention to detail—that went into the growing process.
In the beginning, it was super awesome to grow and supply it to the dispensaries; that was back when strains meant something. I got my start by growing unique strains that were only grown for certain dispensaries, long before anyone else had access to them.
Erin: The marijuana industry has become more professional and corporate in a lot of ways. In the early days, people used to smoke while they were trimming for medical. That’s not the case anymore.
The first company that I worked with started in medical marijuana. They kept growing, and eventually, they built a multimillion dollar greenhouse for both medical and recreational grows. They have multiple different stores, harvest every week (called a perpetual harvest), and stock up to 60 strains per store location.
As they streamlined the business, they took a lot of love out of it. Regulation set in, and it became more complex. A big part of my job as Post-Harvest Processing Manager was to manage compliance for the whole grow facility. I learned a lot about regulation and compliance; my number one job was to create processes (SOPs) for everything we did, especially when the plant was cut down—from harvesting to drying and curing all the way to the final packaging at the stores, as well as transfering to MIP infusion processing facilities for extracts like shatter and wax. I saw a huge part of the market and was amazed at how big and vast it is.
How did you end up working in CBD?
Nikki: I took a hiatus and moved to Steamboat for a while. My friend Brian had started a CBD company, 4 Corners Cannabis, but at that time, CBD was still a hard product to sell. No one knew what it was. I started with CBD by selling his product to locals in Steamboat. I then came to Durango to help run his company after he passed away in 2018. I have had the privilege of learning a lot more about the cannabis industry, how the products are made, and what it takes to run a successful business in a very unique industry.
Erin: I was ready for a change, and luckily, I found an open door with 4CC! CBD is a lot laxer on the regulation side, which is great! If the industry ever does become more regulated (like weed), at least I have that background and can roll with the punches.
What do you love about what you do?
Nikki: It’s been super rewarding to grow this business and be on board with it all. The business is still “in the family,” and it’s still a passion of mine. It’s taught me a lot, and I’ve grown a lot professionally. It’s been an awesome all-around experience.
There’s so much unknown and it’s evolving every day. As an industry, we still have so much ground to cover. It’s fun and awesome to be able to work with plants and get my hands in the ground. There’s always a chance to be creative and room to be growing and learning. It’s never stale or stagnant; there’s always something new! I also love the people we are working with; I think it’s really important to work with people who have the same passion as you.
I went to boarding school for smoking weed, so it’s been cool to come back around full circle and be running a Cannabis business. The stigma that has gone with cannabis for so long is finally starting to change. Both marijuana and CBD help people on so many levels and have so much to offer! Helping people is what this product is all about.
Erin: I enjoy seeing how CBD is helping people. In medical marijuana, we had many customers who were so grateful; in recreational marijuana, the medicine aspect is lost. Coming to a CBD company has been really fulfilling.
It’s exciting to see people praising the company and brand for saving their pets and family members. When I was working in marijuana, I really didn’t understand CBD. Now that I’m not in the regulated marijuana market, I don’t use marijuana, but I do use CBD. I feel the effects in a more positive way than when I was using pot; I get more of a positive response.
What advice would you give to women who want to work in CBD?
Nikki: Do it. Don’t hold back! You can do anything that you want, all you have to do is try.
Erin: Don’t take shit from any of the guys! In most cases, you’ll have to start at the bottom and prove yourself. But that is the same in any job!