From The Glamorous World Of Wine, Meet The Entrepreneur Leading The Gourmet Side Of Cannabis
Jamie Evans is the founder of The Herb Somm, a cannabis blog and lifestyle brand that is focused on the gourmet side of the industry. She is an educator, event host and producer, as well as a writer who specializes in cannabis, CBD, food, recipes, wine, and the canna-culinary world.
As a well-known CBD and cannabis personality, Jamie is best known for her signature canna-culinary events. In addition, Jamie is the co-editor of GoldLeaf's acclaimed cannabis Cooking Journal, and the author of a new CBD lifestyle book, The Ultimate Guide to CBD: Explore the World of Cannabidiol, scheduled to release in spring 2020.
As an industry leader, Jamie was recently named as one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s "Top 40 Under 40" Tastemakers in 2018, and as a 2018 Innovator by SevenFifty Daily, both recognizing her efforts in the cannabis industry.
Alongside her work in the cannabis space, Jamie is a Certified Specialist of Wine, with over eleven years of wine industry experience. Having represented a wide array of organizations and wineries — including Jackson Family Wines, Folio Fine Wine Partners, Napa Valley Grapegrowers, and more — she has produced high-end events, and has developed top-notch public relations, marketing, and hospitality programs.
But how did Jamie get started on her journey? She explained how her personal interests and professional experience intertwined to make it happen.
What Brought You Into The Cannabis Industry?
"My relationship with cannabis began in college. I remember coming home from my wine sensory evaluation classes and smelling through different cannabis strains thinking, 'Wow, wine and cannabis have so many similarities!' During this time, I imagined I would always work in the wine industry, but my career path eventually changed.
"In January 2017, I witnessed a terrible car accident and couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to take pharmaceutical drugs, so I turned to cannabis to help me work through the trauma. This was the first time in my life that I was using cannabis for medical purposes; and it helped me on so many levels. I grew a deep connection and love for the plant — so I wanted to learn as much as I could. I also knew it was helping so many other people. Cannabis’ ability to heal us is why I wanted to come into this industry."
What Obstacles And Challenges Have You Experienced In Operating Within This Industry?
"Before I launched The Herb Somm, I attended a 'Women in Cannabis' conference in Oakland that featured several female entrepreneurs that were speaking about their companies and the work that they were doing to help create change. I was inspired by these amazing women... From this experience, I felt like I could have a business of my own one day, so I drove right in.
"Given my wine background and love for the gourmet world, the work that I am doing now is mostly focused on the culinary side of cannabis. When it comes to cannabis and dining experiences, there are many obstacles to work through.
"One of the most challenging parts of my job is navigating the current regulations that have been set forth by the state of California, which are constantly changing. As of now, cannabis cuisine and freshly prepared cannabis mocktails and cocktails are still considered illegal when served in public spaces. There is also the challenge of finding a cannabis-friendly event venue. This is because many venues currently carry ABC alcohol licenses. If you are a restaurant or wine bar owner that has an alcohol license, you are at risk of losing your license if people consume cannabis at your establishment, which greatly limits venue options.
"Considering all the other legal hurdles that exist for cannabis dining events, the safest approach at this point is to host private events at private residences, which means you have a closed guest list. All of these things greatly limit consumer access even though these experiences are in high demand."
How Have You Overcome These Obstacles?
"I am the newly appointed Northern California Community Leader of Crop-to-Kitchen, an organization composed of cannabis chefs, restaurateurs, event hosts, edible producers, and infused beverage companies who are advocating for legalized cannabis cuisine and cannabis restaurants throughout California. Our goal is to work with regulators and other trade associations to help establish a new state license type that will allow for public infused dining experiences by 2025.
"We are also working towards developing hospitality standards for how to serve and dose cannabis cuisine and beverages safely and responsibly in a restaurant setting, which does not yet formally exist. I am looking forward to seeing how this corner of the cannabis industry blossoms, particularly with our efforts at Crop-to-Kitchen."
As A Woman In Cannabis, Do You Feel You're At An Advantage, A Disadvantage, Or Both? And Why?
"I think there are many benefits to being a woman in cannabis.
"First of all, the community of women involved in this industry is truly something special. We have each other's backs, we support each other, and we learn from one another. There is a sisterhood that exists, which makes being a female entrepreneur in the cannabis industry a safe space to operate in — however, there are still aspects of the cannabis industry that degrade and sexualize women. As a female entrepreneur in this industry, I am trying to do my part to help end that stereotype — just like so many other female-owned cannabis businesses.
"I am also very passionate about supporting other women in this space, particularly cannabis chefs. Last year, I launched my event series, Thursday Infused, to highlight different culinary talents across the country. More than 75 percent of my spotlighted chefs have been women. They are truly the movers and shakers who are leading the canna-culinary movement."
What Is An Accomplishment You Have Achieved In This Industry That You Are Most Proud Of?
"Completing my first book, The Ultimate Guide to CBD: Explore the World of Cannabidiol, which is releasing in March 2020 by Fair Winds Press of Quarto Publishing Group. This was truly a labor of love that took every ounce of my energy, but I am so incredibly thrilled with how the book turned out.
"Each chapter explores how you can use CBD (and other cannabinoids) in a variety of ways. For example, in the self-care chapter, you can learn how to make a sensual massage oil to enhance your sex life. In the beverages chapter, you can learn how to craft your very own CBD mocktails and cocktails at home.
"There are also a variety of expert spotlights highlighted throughout the book featuring the leading CBD personalities across every field. Pre-orders are now on sale on Amazon, so please be sure to secure your copy."
What Was Your Greatest Lesson Learned?
"Be nimble and be ready to pivot on a dime. It’s not an easy task being an entrepreneur in this industry, so sometimes you have to be OK with operating in the gray area.
"Another lesson is to never forget the past. We wouldn’t be where we are today if people hadn’t put their lives and freedom at risk for this plant. We owe a lot to those early activists and pioneers. Without their efforts, there wouldn’t be a legal market like we are seeing today."