Jane’s Domain: At Willie’s Place, Loving the Acceptance and SupportJane WestApril 1, 2016
On a recent Friday afternoon on the rolling hills outside Austin, my best laid plans were washed away. I’d been planning a thank-you trip to Texas for months as a way to show my parents my appreciation for the support they’ve given me over the past couple years (and basically the past 40 years). I brought them with me to the Luck Reunion, Willie Nelson’s annual family concert. It’s a legendary show, kind of a one-day festival-within-the-festival that happens on Willie’s ranch in the Texas Hill Country during SXSW.
I’ve gotten to know Annie, Willie’s wife, over the past couple years. She’s the driving force behind the creation of the Willie’s Reserve brand and has become a big supporter of Women Grow. My mom met her at the recent Women Grow Summit and we were psyched to hear some country music in Willie’s backyard.
Then came the storm. Halfway through the day, clouds gathered and a gully-washer swept over the ranch. Musicians scattered, the stage crew cut the power, and the audience huddled under tents to wait it out. My parents, grateful for the experience but limited in stamina, graciously thanked me and retreated to Austin and the warm comfort of their hotel.
Hours later, the sky cleared and the music started back up. Willie finally took the stage with his famously battered guitar, Trigger. He played “Good Hearted Woman,” “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” “Let the Circle Be Unbroken” — all the classics. I stood in the crowd watching him play with his actual family of musicians for his symbolic family of fans. His son Micah backed him on drums. Another son, Lukas, played guitar. His wife, Annie, watched proudly from the wings.
As I listened to Willie’s deeply authentic, weathered-leather voice, it made me think further about the importance of family acceptance and support. I couldn’t have done what I’ve done in the cannabis industry without it.
I talk with hundreds women in the cannabis industry, entrepreneurs and CEOs and young growers. Too many confide that they still can’t speak openly about their careers. “Oh, I can’t tell my parents,” they say. Or “I’ve got to hide it from my grandma.” They’re not hiding their consumption — they’re hiding their careers. These are courageous, successful women, risk takers and pioneers. And they’re silenced by stigma and shame.
Every woman in this industry deserves two things from their loved ones: acceptance and support.
Acceptance comes from family members who may not yet be comfortable even speaking about cannabis. My husband and my own parents have always openly accepted my cannabis career. My husband’s parents, bless them, come from a more conservative background. They don’t consume at all. But they’re very proud of what I’m doing. They’ve helped me understand what acceptance really looks like.
I know I’ve got it good. I’m in a position to push the boundaries of mainstream cannabis acceptance, and I work at it. My Instagram feed isn’t just a collection of family photos, and it isn’t just cannabis-related events. It’s a mix of moments from my life.
Last week I posted photos from the Luck Reunion, South By Southwest, and from Kendal Norris’s quarterly Mason Jar dinner in Black Hawk, Colorado. I also put up shots of my family romping in the snow after Denver got buried last week. Of 30 shots, two show me consuming cannabis. That’s a conscious choice. I live in Colorado. Because it’s safe for me, I feel it’s important to show what responsible use looks like in a legal state.
Too many other cannabis entrepreneurs, especially women, can only dream of that. Not when authorities in illegal states are separating children from parents who need medical marijuana. I spoke recently to a single mom in Texas. She can’t say a word about her involvement with cannabis because her ex-husband could use it against her in a court custody battle.
There are still a lot of moments in our lives, as women and cannabis users, that remain hidden. To be clear, choosing not to post photos of yourself consuming is not a cowardly act. It’s simply a recognition of the heavy social and cultural strictures that still exist in 2016. It is considered kicky and fun when a mom posts a photo of herself enjoying a glass of wine and The Bachelor finale after the kids are in bed. It’s OK to post a comment: “Oh my god, after the day I had I so need this merlot!” A photo of that same mom vaping a relaxing strain of Purple Kush could cost her a job or custody of her kids.
Support. That’s the second part of this. I saw it at the Luck Reunion. Annie supporting Willie, and vice-versa, both of them supporting their grown kids.
When you’re an entrepreneur, there’s a level of sometimes invisible support that’s absolutely critical. When I have to travel, my mom and dad are there to help with the kids. When I look around at other female entrepreneurs, I realize how important that is to the success of their startups. The Mason Jar event brought together four different female-led companies, and all of the women have supportive spouses. In a small business there’s no daycare, no accounting department, no medical leave. That corporate support doesn’t exist. (Yet.)
Sometimes that acceptance and support all come together in one critical moment. One of those happened a couple days ago. It was morning, I was moving the kids along, feeling absolutely on top of my game. Then one of the kids stopped up the toilet. I bent over to fix it, and my phone fell in. I ran to the kitchen, opened the cupboard to find the rice (because, phone in water, right?) and a glass salad bowl fell out and shattered. So I was left standing there with poop on one hand, blood on another, a broken phone, and two kids standing barefoot on a floor of broken glass.
Those moments happen. And that’s when you need a supportive spouse, best friend, mom and dad, standing behind you cheering you on. Telling you: You can do this. We’re so proud of you. Instead of shaking their heads, reminding you that they always knew your silly marijuana venture would come to a bad end. Don’t let diminishing comments like that take the wind out of your sails. There is a community here to support you.
When I hear from naysayers, I’m going to try and remember Willie up there singing “Always On My Mind” with his children at the ranch. Because an accepting, supportive family is always in the back of my mind, along with a deep feeling of gratitude.