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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Author Heather Cabot shares peek into industry rebranding

By Joe Butler EVERCANNABIS writer

Cannabis culture wasn’t part of Heather Cabot’s world, and any thoughts she may have had about weed were stoner stereotypes that don’t quite fit in our current environment at all.

It’s not just her either: much of the world is learning, or perhaps re-learning, that cannabis plays an increasingly important role in more and more people’s lives – including the bank accounts of entrepreneurs trying to be part of what’s being called the ‘Green Rush.’

In her new book, “The New Chardonnay: The Unlikely Story of How Marijuana Went Mainstream,” Cabot shares her observations and experiences watching cannabis rebrand itself from something illegal and dangerous that respectable people aren’t supposed to discuss, into a multi-billion dollar and legal industry that’s expected to keep growing as more states change their rules.

“I knew nothing of the cannabis industry, it wasn’t part of my life,” she shared during a September conversation with The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Book Club. “I grew up in the ‘Just Say No’ generation, I was a suburban mom of teens, it’s just like the furthest thing from my life.”

During the virtual forum, led by Spokesman-Review reporter Kip Hill, Cabot took viewers on her educational journey of learning how diverse the cannabis industry is. This included visiting farms and trade shows; California wineries, some of which are diversifying into a new product; and Canadian dispensaries that are looking for all sorts of ways to put this plant into products.

She learned about the unlikely partnership of design guru Martha Stewart and rapper Snoop Dogg, and even traveled with Mr. Dogg and his business partner Ted Chung.

Cabot has an extensive news background, including an ABC News correspondent and co-anchor for ABC World News Now/World News This Morning. She later was assigned the tech beat as Web Life Editor for Yahoo!, a position that helped her learn about this new and dynamic industry.

It led to the publication of “Geek Girl Rising,” in 2017 a book that explored the growing role of women in high-tech, a traditionally male-dominated industry.

In researching that book, the New York resident met several women financiers and angel investors who were eager to provide resources especially to women-owned tech firms. Later she learned many of them were setting their sights on cannabis as the next exciting growth area.

“I was struck by the fact that these were all people I regarded as very strait-laced – they had these Wall Street credentials, Ivy League pedigrees,” she said. “I was just shocked that they would be investing money, their own money, into something federally illegal. I just didn’t understand that, so I started making some calls.”

Cabot said one investor said the topic was too big to discuss over the phone, but encouraged her to attend MJBizCon in Las Vegas, considered the largest cannabis industry convention in the world.

That showed her, right away, how professional and legitimate the industry was and how large of scale it is.

The 40-minute discussion covered her experiences following certain industry members as well as provided some predictions where the industry growing, especially since it is seeing so much support at all levels. This includes many former foes in law enforcement and government, even members of the historically tough on drugs Republican Party. For instance, former House Speaker John Boehner is now on the board of a multi-state cannabis company and a firm advocate.

The fact that cannabis businesses were declared essential in Washington and other states goes a long way.

“Something is happening here,” Cabot said.

Joe Butler is a longtime marketing writer and editor at The Spokesman-Review. He’s an enthusiast of Star Wars, commemorative spoon collecting, and the Oxford comma.