Jamie Cooper was living out in Colorado during legalization boom for recreational marijuana usage. After realizing there was a growth opportunity for medical marijuana in West Michigan, Jamie packed her bags and headed north. Nearly four years later, Jamie is the first cannabis entrepreneur being recognized by a mainstream business publication for her efforts with
Rapid Growth: How does it feel to be acknowledged in West Michigan as influential woman within the cannabis industry?
Jamie Cooper: I am incredibly honored. Statewide, I am the first cannabis entrepreneur that has been recognized by a mainstream business publication. It made me realize that people do respect the work that I am doing and I feel so blessed. There are some amazing women on that list (GRBJ's 50 Most Influential Women
) alongside me.
RG: Where does your enthusiasm for cannabis come from?
JC: I think there is a lot of personal motivation behind that. When I was out in Colorado I had my medical card. But when I moved to Michigan, I stopped using because I thought I would get tested. That’s when I noticed my stomach issues and acid reflux coming back. When I was in Colorado I would consume before bed to prevent these problems from happening; I would sleep well. In Michigan, where I wasn’t medicinally smoking, I began choking on food in the middle of the night when I was trying to sleep. Nights I consumed I wasn’t having any issues.
Another motivator for me was when I lost my father last year to pancreatic cancer. It broke my heart to watch him suffer. The fact that he had to illegally use cannabis in his dying days was disheartening. I am willing to fight for others like my father. But I don’t think people see it until they are in that situation. It’s weird. Life brought me to this. Everything that has happened in my life confirms that I am doing exactly what I need to be doing.
RG: How did you decide to take this passion of yours and make it into a career?
JC: When I was living in Breckenridge, CNN was filming for a show called “High Profits.” At the time, there was a lot of buzz circulating about this new industry, so I thought about how I could be a front runner in Michigan. I initially thought I wanted to open a dispensary, but the laws surrounding that are so gray. So I went to starting a marketing company for the industry, called Canna Media Works
. That’s where my path into the industry started.
RG: Why focus your efforts on Michigan?
JC: Michigan is actually the second largest medical market, behind California. That tells us that there are that many people that choose to use medical marijuana as an alternative medicine. There just aren’t a whole lot of businesses feeding that need. What I want for West Michigan (in particular), is to see what regulated marijuana really looks like. I want these communities to open their eyes to what the opportunity really looks like. There are 262,000 patients out there and not a lot of businesses out there to service their needs. These patients shouldn’t have to drive to the other side of the state to get what they need.
RG: What are some of the biggest hurdles you are encountering in West Michigan?
JC: The biggest hurdle that there are very few communities in West Michigan that have opted into supporting medical marijuana. Without a doubt, there are a whole lot of communities that are listening to the conversation(s), but they are hesitant to say ‘yes.' I think they are waiting on others to say yes first.
RG: Why do you think that is?
JC: I have started many conversations within the communities of West Michigan, and it seems me that they are afraid of being one of the front runners. I understand that. But let's be honest, we aren’t reinventing the wheel. There are several other states that have already done this. Which is what started the development of Cannabiz Connection
. These leaders can’t be thinking about their personal feelings.
RG: How you feel that women are changing the Cannabis industry?
JC: Women are such a huge powerful force in this industry. The percentage of women who are executive level in the cannabis industry is higher than the national average of others, because you need to have that passion behind it. Our passion is in the health of our families, which is why we (women) are so motivated to be a driving force in this. Women are in their bathrooms and garages secretly smoking joints all over the country every day. To gain the support of women, the promotional marketing needs to be tastefully done.
RG: In what other ways is marketing for cannabis different?
JC: Not only is cannabis an industry that is still really new, most cannabis businesses seem to be marketing to people that use it daily. What they need to be marketing to people in West Michigan that aren’t familiar with it and teaching them how they can use it for their aliments; put together content and resources for that audience. That way you can grow the support for the industry a lot quicker. We should not be making people feel ‘bad’ or ‘guilty’ for purchasing or smoking medical cannabis. The companies that are making people feel that way with their marketing efforts… they are dropping the ball and not being effective.
Medical marijuana is not what most people think it is. They need to open their eyes to recreational opportunities and give municipalities a test drive for when recreational becomes legal. Because I very optimistic that recreational is going pass in the near future.
Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.