Last year, High! Canada Magazine had the honour of sitting down with Miranda Hawryliw, a partner at cannabis-based storefront in Southern British Columbia. She is a canna-mom and a huge advocate for the medicinal cannabis movement. She is also currently working on a lifestyle website that will focus on de-stigmatizing the industry for women.
What led you into a career within the Canadian cannabis industry?
It's funny that you should ask because, I truly believe that all paths in my life thus far have led me here. I have always experienced a spiritual pull towards our Earth Mother and plant life. All of Mother Earths elements and the ways in which we coexist has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. My relationship with alternative healthcare, self healing, and self reflection have always been a focal point. Because I am now aware of my body and mind in a deeper sense, I have been awakened to the ever evolving and maturing relationship that I have with cannabis. With that, 6 years ago, my Mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and that was a huge shift in our families lives. Oddly enough, it wasn't until after her treatment that medicinal cannabis was on my radar. I grew up around addicts of all sorts and struggled with substance abuse myself. Because of this, there was a negative spin on cannabis in my mid twenties- heaven forbid we were to “use” another “drug.” Oh, the ignorance!! Things would change again when my best friend passed away from brain cancer a few years ago. After that tragic loss, I started seeking truths in places I had never known to exist. I now watch a close Auntie fight her battle with Cancer using cannabis (because of her own studies!!) Cancer is a war close to home that should've never been waged and so began my journey to study the benefits of cannabis. I now know that the benefits of cannabis know no boundaries. When my mom approached me with the thought of opening a medical cannabis access center in early 2017, I knew it was something I not only wanted to be involved in- but needed to! I moved from Saskatchewan in September 2017 and have been pouring my heart and soul into the one on one personal relationships that a dispensary setting since. Although, I have only been involved in this industry a short time… less than a year, I find it to be such a dense lifestyle, you know where 1 year feels like 3, so there have been people and opportunities that have allowed me to grow and begin to expand in all areas of this industry!
Tell us about how you got involved in the cannabis industry?
Joining the cannabis revolution had been a thought brought to me by my Mom in January 2017. At that point, we both had many questions, and really no idea what that would involve. In June of 2017 our hope filled conversation had become a certainty when she approached me with the idea of opening a medical access centre.
Did you encounter any challenges or adversity to adopting a full- time role in the expanding Canadian cannabis market and if so, what did you do to overcome them and successfully move forward?
For me, I think the most challenging aspect of being involved in this lifestyle has been defining myself as a medicator and as a mother. I do not believe that we need to define ourselves in anyway but being involved in something that I view as much larger than what I/we know, I genuinely feel that I have a responsibility to own my journey and speak it aloud. I hope that in doing so, people are given the chance to open their minds and engage in educated conversations about cannabis and maybe even share their own journey. I really struggled with the opinions of other mothers, fearing that I would be viewed as an irresponsible or absent parent. I think its important for myself, and other women who are fearful of unnecessary judgements, to remind my/themselves that there is absolutely no shame in self medicating.
Another challenge, of course, is removing the stigma associated to the flower and its legalities within my own circle. Having those “tough conversations” with my family and friends. A perfect example of this was trying to have a conversation with my ten and twelve-year-old nieces (they had many questions about my career!), who reverts to the current stature of cannabis, being illegal.
What are you working on now. Can you run us through an average day for you?
Right now?! I am blazing the stigma and living my higher life!!
I am working on a handful of FUN and EXCITING projects!! The focus of my days lately have been the rebranding of our store, which will be explained more in depth further down!
As I help run the dispensary in Abbotsford, my responsibilities have ranged from getting on my hands and knees during the renovation to doing research on products and the science behind the plant, to doing the accounting, to aiding our clientele and beyond! It's a high maintenance lifestyle, right? While we build this store and concentrate on defining what that really means for us, I am also working with a friend on a potential store front in another province and if that and being a mom to a very spirited 3-year-old boy wasn't enough, I am also creating a lifestyle page, which obviously involves me building my own brand. Again, many prayers!! With that I am in the process of finishing my website, writing product reviews, keeping up with current events, taking too many bad pictures, trying to edit those pictures, and digging deep down into my being so that I am able be open and vulnerable to my audience. Yep, all in days work. When it comes to the branding and marketing of branding of the store I turn to my Mom. I wanted my Mom to answer this part.
“Miranda stated early in this piece that we are in the process of rebranding; to elaborate on this topic, is quite difficult. Our initial purchase into a franchise-based business was painless, every question we had was answered, and every question we didn't ask, was also answered. A relatively small monetary buy in and minimal franchise fees; Successful teams to reach out to. What more could we ask for? So our journey into the Medicinal Cannabis World began.
The founders of the shop we decided to franchise with were welcoming and attentive and I will be forever thankful for the introduction to the green industry.
We opened our doors on October 31, 2017. In the past four months, a very short time frame, we have grown exponentially, met many inspirational people within this close-knit industry, I refer to these people as “the community,” thus broadening our horizons. It's hard to articulate the growth process as we are experiencing our vision come to fruition before our eyes!!! Hard work, dedication and an endless amount of time & energy has been given by each of us and we can not be more fulfilled. Powerful, excited and humbled are feelings we share everyday arriving at the dispensary. Our vision of where we wanted to be and the road to get there has evolved and we felt it's time to stand alone, thus includes everything from hours of operation to a consistent online presence. Belonging to a franchise, any franchise, comes with a predisposed strategy, moving forward we knew that our strategy was one of a cohesive storefront and an equally self directed social media and online presence, hence re-branding ourselves was the next step in achieving the alignment we had been missing.
I've been asked if I would buy into a franchise again, I would not; However, I have no disregard for the road we chose, the mistakes we made or the successes we've celebrated, it made our journey what it was supposed to be.
In closing I cannot stress the pride we feel for being a part of what I consider the “modern day prohibition” and cannot wait for post legalization. What stories my grandchildren will have!! Gigi was part of that”
Plans for the future - personally and professionally?
Oh, good grief, if nothing else, I am a day dream believer with an imagination that moves as quickly as this industry does and so my plans are recreating themselves at a steady pace… but I will say I just want to create. I want to create, create, create. I want to create a safe space for people to share and heal. I want to create a space where people are not scared to ask questions and are free of any preconceived notions of what medicating with cannabis looks like. I want to share and inform, and I want to continue to grow and meet amazing wonderful people who are in this industry to serve the plant that serves us!
Last question - what are three things that you think everyone should be doing?
In my opinion I think that it is essential for people to educate themselves on the medication that is being given to them (or loved ones), be it pharmaceuticals or cannabis. I also really hope that more people who are in the “cannabis closet” start using their voice so that proactive discussions can start transpiring. We need to start teaching our children that there are alternative lifestyles and by participating in fore-ward thinking movements they can be apart of beautiful change.