INTERVIEW WITH NATASHA PERKINS: A WOMAN IN CANNABIS
I had the chance to learn about Cannabis Regulations from Natasha Perkins almost a year ago. Recently acclaimed by Leafly as one of Canada's Coolest Cannabis Professors, Natasha was definitely one of the coolest professors I've had the pleasure of learning from, in any field of study. I thoroughly appreciated her entrepreneurial spirit and her ability to drive us to succeed.
Natasha's career highlights since legalization include working with the government and supporting them in preparing for "the scary new world of legalization" as well as assisting "ambitious entrepreneurs" in submitting their Health Canada applications. She equally worked with Jimmy's Cannabis, opening the first ever Cannabis retail store in the province of Saskatchewan on October 17th. She currently is working at MNP's Regina office as a senior manager and is an entrepreneur with various other projects on the go. Proudest moments in her career include clients successfully receiving their Health Canada licences (a huge feat), starting her own venture and "students submitting their final assignment and it being clear they actually learned something in the class" (here's hoping I was one of them!).
Returning to Belleville to teach in Loyalist College's Cannabis Applied Science post-graduate program once again, I reached out to Natasha with a few questions about her journey in the cannabis industry and her answers did not disappoint. I hope you enjoy her freshly charismatic words as much as I did and if you see her around Belleville this week, make sure you say hi!
Q1: How did you enter the cannabis space and what career moves led you to where you are today?
Truthfully it was part passion and part luck. After ending a large two-year project in Gaborone, Botswana, I returned to Canada and joined MNP’s Food and Beverage team out of Toronto. While in Botswana I had started a social enterprise confectionery company which imparted small business and baking skills to local women. It also fulfilled a lifelong dream for me which was to run a culinary business. Nothing puts me more at ease than making beautiful food for people. So, I was tickled to have the opportunity to consult to Food and Beverage organizations when returning to Canada. Little did I know I was in for the ride of my life.
Originally from Vancouver Island, BC (Cannabis Central) I thought my colleagues were teasing me when they asked if I would “handle the marijuana file” at the firm. You see this was back when the Government of Canada called the program Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR).
Q2: Have you ever experienced inequality in the industry, or on your career path, and how did you deal with it?
To quote the Queen herself, “Middle fingers up, tell ‘em boy bye”.
Yes, I have experienced inequality what female professional hasn’t? We’ve made a lot of progress as a society, but we have a lot of unlearning to learn to do.
Generally, I have played the game and it has served me well. I believe that’s what most successful women have done in male dominated industries. It’s not the only way it’s just the path of least resistance. And well quite frankly, I am no longer interested in that path. Women and men are equal, but we are not the same. It’s about high time we stopped pretending to be one of the boys if that’s not us. To be clear if you are one of the boys that’s totally cool too. We should all aim for authenticity and inclusivity.
Q3: Do you have any cannabis-stigma stories you are willing to share?
Hundreds. They are all the same boring story though. Lack of awareness, understanding and empathy for the cannabis plant and its users. I went head to head with a former police chief at his son’s wedding and it startled me how strongly held some of his assumptions were. I truly believe that as scientific findings are circulated more broadly that society will come to understand what role cannabis can play in our lives.
Q4: As an entrepreneur, what keeps you grounded?
My family. Living in Toronto pushed me to my professional limits meaning I didn’t find much time for anything other than work. Toronto’s pulse is quick and addictive. There came a time when a co-worker had to remind me to “get a life outside of work”. Whenever I lose my way my family grounds me back to earth. I also have done a ton of work on staying within healthy limits (the higher your highs the lower your lows); this comes from a lot of reflection, therapy, yoga and meditation. I also know my healthy habits and when things feel off, I check back in and assess when the last time I went for a run was or had a good sleep or read something for fun, etc.
I had such a great time catching up with Natasha and hope to channel her drive in my future work in the cannabis industry and want to thank her immensely for taking the time to answer my questions!
Stay tuned for more interviews with women in cannabis as well as other developments in the industry. If you missed my last women in cannabis article, you can check it out here.
The Feminist of Cannabis