Women of cannabis have been getting a lot of attention lately, and rightly so. Leaders in many arenas, from activism and education to business and politics, they’re setting the tone for a new industry and igniting a conversation that’s pulling in voices you might not expect to hear in the cannabis space. Due in large part to the work women have done to normalize the cannabis plant, there’s a national momentum around this movement the likes of which we have not seen before. But this didn’t happen overnight. For years, women have been working to change laws, to establish regulations that keep our kids safe, and to cultivate responsible businesses that support our communities.
Last week the Mother’s High Tea at the History Colorado Center honored these women, the “mothers of a movement,” according to co-chair Christie Lunsford. The third biennial celebration was founded by Susan Squibb (aka The Cannabis Maven), director of operations for marijuana testing lab Steep Hill Halent of Colorado and writer for The Cannabist, and is produced by her event company, 4&20 Blackbirds. A standalone affair, the High Tea brings representatives from all corners of the cannabis community, from nonprofits and advocacy groups to cultivation centers, dispensaries, and ancillary businesses.
The ball got rolling for the first Mother’s High Tea in 2011, when Susan Squibb hosted a party for her friends in cannabis, providing a networking space for women to develop connections that would serve the greater movement and honoring their accomplishments with great food, tea, and inspirational speakers. It was also an occasion to commemorate Squibb’s mother, who had been active in many nonprofit endeavors. About that first tea, Lunsford remembers: “The relationships we developed through that one networking function were the relationships that allowed us to have the stores and infused companies and nonprofits all work together.”
In 2012 the tea was a fundraiser for Women’s CannaBusiness Network (WCBN), a project of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), and supported its federal reform efforts. At that time, many of the women involved in WCBN wanted to work for Colorado’s Amendment 64 but could not do so under the auspices of NCIA due to its status as a national organization; the Mother’s High Tea was an opportunity for women to come together and organize around that initiative and play an important role in its victory on the ballot.
In addition to the “notable networking and delectable tea,” the Mother’s High Tea is the rare marijuana party that allows children to attend (well-dressed men were also welcome). A non-consumption event, the tea is family friendly to encourage honest conversation with the next generation about cannabis and the work these women do. Lunsford herself brought her seven-year-old, who already knows that his mom “educates about the endocannabinoid systems and is an advocate for social change.”
On the menu, hemp foods, with both gluten free and vegan options, complimented the assortment of teas. Speakers Diane Fornbacher, publisher of Ladybud; AC Braddock, CEO of Eden Labs; and Kristi Kelly, owner of the GoodMeds Network, moved the crowd with poems, motivational stories, and personal anecdotes, and Colorado state senator Beth Martinez Humenik delivered the keynote. This year’s event featured a photo booth sponsored by Julie’s Natural Edibles with photos by Kim Sidwell/Cannabis Camera, who has been documenting the movement since 2009; an art table where children could create magnets or ornaments with the guidance of Caren Kershner of Colorado Industrial Hemp Coalition and Heidi Keyes of Puff, Pass & Paint; and a letter writing table, where attendees could send notes to state representatives and explain their views on the cannabis plant.
“There’s a political component and a community component,” says Lunsford. “The Mother’s High Tea is being proactive about what social change looks like in the United States.”
There’s rumor the Mother’s High Tea will become an annual event. Follow their Facebook page for updates.