Marijuana Venture speaks with television star, business woman, cancer survivor and cannabis activist Cheryl Shuman.
Marijuana Venture: We’re excited to have you coming to Seattle for the Green Rush financial conference. Can you tell us a bit more about your involvement with that group?
Cheryl Shuman: Seattle is one of my favorite cities. Currently, I’m dividing my time between what I refer to as the “Golden Triangle for the Green Rush” — Seattle, Denver and my home base in Beverly Hills. When I founded the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club, I made a decision to work with the finest companies and entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry. Recently, when I attended the Weedstock Conference held by Marketfy and Benzinga, I met several new publicly traded companies from Canada. One of those was the team from Green Rush Financial Conferences. I love seeing the business of the cannabis industry exploding right now; in fact, I refer to it as “The Pot Com Boom.”
We discussed my history of producing events and conferences such as the historic KushCon Events in Denver, the first cannabis trade shows in history grossing $1.7 million and drawing over 150,000 people over a three-day period, as well as many other events I’ve produced and been the keynote speaker on. Their first seminars were in their native Canada and outrageously successful. We decided to officially form a partnership to launch Green Rush in the United States, where I will be headlining and hosting the speaker and media program with the best speakers in the world, but also in charge of the media outreach and overall production for the first event in Seattle on Sept. 23, 2014 and then building out a 15-city USA Road Show Tour.
From my research, GreenRush Financial conferences have done an excellent job in Canada being the first company in Canada to hold a well-attended and informative business-to-business conferences focusing on finance and education for the medical marijuana, industrial hemp and alternative medicine industries.
We’re all very excited. I’m thrilled to have Marijuana Venture working with us to highlight the best that the cannabis industry as to offer. Count on the best of the best!
MV: In a recent article in Adweek, you talked about branding. What are you feelings on branding – or the lack thereof – In the marijuana business?
Shuman: The cannabis industry is evolving at warp speed in front of our very eyes in real time. We are witnessing history with the movement transforming from the criminal sector to the lawful sector. Only now, can we as business people begin to emerge from the cannabis closet to develop brands and corporate identities, because the industry itself is becoming big business.
The brands that we work with as the most recognized branding, media and public relations firms are the brands that will become household names by 2016 worldwide. The leaders of these brands will dominate the covers of magazines and television news broadcasts. Smart business players in the sector will recognize the necessity of standing out from the crowd and vying for top position. I love building out their media and marketing strategies. I’m so blessed to have the greatest job on the planet and work with the top leaders in the field. My focus is on leaving a legacy building the biggest and most successful brands in cannabis history.
In every industry, a solid brand identifies the leaders.
Therefore it makes sense to understand that branding is not about getting your target market to choose you over the competition, but it is about getting your audience to see you as the only one that provides a solution for their needs. GreenRush Financial Conferences provide the finance, investment and educational solution to this new muti-billion dollar industry
The objectives that a good brand will achieve include: Delivers the message clearly, confirms your credibility, connects your target prospects emotionally, motivates the buyer and solidifies client loyalty.
GreenRush Financial Conferences is a brand that we plan to make a leader in the business-to-business, education and finance aspect of the legal marijuana and industrial hemp industries.
MV: Are there any companies in the marijuana business that you’re especially interested in, or intrigued by?
Shuman: Yes, I’m most excited by our portfolio of brands. Our first company, the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club, was founded back in 1996 has a complete line of branded products now in production and expansion plans to Seattle, Denver and other cities by 2016. We are also purchasing land throughout the country to build out 420-friendly resorts by 2020. We’ve been in meetings to launch a new skin care and anti-aging line of products with hemp oil.
Our media projects in production with William Morris Endeavor in Beverly Hills are covering feature films, documentaries, television and of course mass media outlets with CNN, Fox Business News and ABC. To date, Cheryl Shuman Media has generated over $537 million worth of earned media worldwide and growing in content production each day.
Echelon Cannabis, formed with my business partner Norton Arbelaez, is our new consulting group, providing full service business development solutions to emerging companies in the cannabis industry.
Green Rush Financial, of course, because with my huge network and experience, we have the opportunity to match funding partners with great business ideas and companies. This traveling road show of “Cannalebrity Rockstars” are going to dominate the media in each market, thus growing our message at even greater reach, speed and impact.
Cannabis Technologies is another interesting company set to dominate the research and development of cannabis medicines. I’ve worked with and interviewed some of the most respected scientists and researchers in the world from the University of Jerusalem and Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and the Tikun Olam Medical Gardens, among many others. The research and science team they’ve put together is going to revolutionize cannabis as a medicine worldwide. It’s exciting to realize that cannabis will soon be available to treat not only a multitude of illnesses but it will heal economies worldwide with countries like Canada being federally legal encouraging other countries, hopefully the USA to legalize federally.
MV: What states do you feel will be the next to legalize recreational marijuana, and when do you think California will take the recreational plunge?
Shuman: Alaska will be next. Regarding the other states, the most important thing we can do is to start raising money to get these campaigns properly funded in all the states necessary. My business partner, Norton Arbelaez has started the process of forming a Super PAC to financially support political candidates who support the cannabis industry and to remove from office those who do not support us.
We are extremely well funded with major players and will be making a public announcement on our strategy and team within the next 60 days.
For decades now, George Soros, John Sperling and the late Peter Lewis have spent billions of dollars supporting the cannabis industry. Norton and I have organized the next new breed of billionaires to take the cannabis industry to the next level on an international platform. We are filming the entire process. Yes indeed, the revolution will be televised.
MV: You are well known in Hollywood and Beverly Hills. How different is the scene down there from Colorado or Washington?
Shuman: Here there are public circles of cannabis consumers and then the closet high-profile, red carpet circles. Our Beverly Hills Cannabis Club members are “high society/high profile” and can’t take chances entering a traditional dispensary, so we produce a modern day type of “speakeasy” mansion party experience at least once a month for our inner circles. We have five-star chefs who prepare a gourmet cannabis-infused meal for our guests with fine wines, but more importantly the finest cannabis strains grown organically at our farm in Northern California. To the right of each china set is a personal vaporizer for each guest and a sampling of a gram of eight different strains that are paired with the food, similar to what someone might experience at a wine tasting in the Napa Valley.
In the mainstream L.A. world, it’s the wild, wild west. Dispensaries are everywhere, open one day and closed down the next with no regulation, no real quality control or organization. However, I do see and believe that with all of the success of Colorado and Washington, combined with the celebrity and media power we have in the L.A. market, we will see the success of the Super PAC funding a successful run in 2016 for full legalization for the responsible adult use of cannabis in California. Count on it.
I love going to the different markets in Denver and Seattle as well as other states and can’t wait until we see reciprocity in all states and the ability to travel with cannabis. Soon, I hope that our media efforts will make cannabis consumption as normal as having a glass of wine with dinner.
MV: You’ve been called the “most powerful woman in the marijuana business.” How did you get started?
Shuman: I’ve built several multi-million dollar companies in my lifetime. I started working in the television industry at the age of 18 with a national top-rated show called PM Magazine back in 1978 and was known as the nation’s “Coupon Queen.”
The power of this television show made me a millionaire by the time I was 21. I realized the power of media and have always used it as a strategy to build companies. After a near fatal car accident in the early ‘80s I started a new career and was known as the “Optician to the Stars” working with celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Madonna and hundreds of others. I designed, manufactured and sold these sunglasses and eyewear lines on the QVC network with a $150 million deal over a seven-year period and was one of their first exclusive TV personalities that was also the co-host of the shows.
This success expanded into the No. 1 product placement and branding firm for film, television and the music industry. As an expert in celebrity lifestyle brands, we produced print and video content with celebrity fashion brands for outlets all over the world including Access Hollywood, Today Show, Entertainment Tonight and more.
When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, cannabis saved my life. As a high-profile corporate business woman, I realized quickly that cannabis itself was the victim of a smear campaign by the Hearst Corporation throughout history. As a branding expert and media strategist, it was simple: Cannabis/marijuana needed a damn good rebranding campaign and I was focused on leading the way.
The message was simple: Marijuana saved my life, marijuana makes me a better human being with a better quality of life. Marijuana can heal our people and heal our economy through jobs and revenue. I researched and learned about a woman from the 1930s, Pauline Sabin, who led a group of high-society women to overturn alcohol prohibition. I’m proud to lead women to overturn cannabis prohibition. Media and political experts will confirm that women are the secret to legalization, specifically moms.
As the executive director of Moms for Marijuana, we represent over 500,000 women around the world that support and share our message and we are growing like “weeds.” We are leading this movement and we will see legalization in a record rate by 2016. We are unified we are organized. I’ve had a vision from the moment I was diagnosed with cancer and I made a promise to leave a legacy behind. At age 54 now and a survivor of cancer, I have dedicated the rest of my life to the cannabis industry and movement worldwide.
MV: Are you doing anything with politicians to speed up the legalization process?
Shuman: Yes, I meet with politicians throughout the USA and internationally on cannabis politics and policy. As stated earlier we are forming the most powerful Super PAC ever formed in the cannabis industry. We control the message, the money, the politics and then the entire movement on a worldwide level.
MV: Are there any things that you’d change about the way recreational marijuana is handled in Washington and Colorado?
Shuman: Colorado and Washington have been both pioneers and leaders in the medical and recreational marijuana front. The industry insiders and interested parties following the progress of these two States have mostly good things to say to date. The rest of America is looking to these two State Leaders as an example and a model to follow.
Undoubtedly they will have pros and cons, but the smart politicians and money seems to be generally in favor of what they have accomplished to date.
MV: Have you had any personal experiences with medical marijuana use, or do you know anyone it has helped?
Shuman: Absolutely! Cannabis saved my life with cancer and works for chronic pain issues from several broken bones in my neck and back from past car accidents. I work with patients every day from pediatric oncology patients and children with Dravet Syndrome to Veterans suffering from PTSD and phantom limb pain to corporate patients who have anxiety disorders to elderly patients with dementia and chronic pain. The common thread/bond is that they all have found a superior quality of life using cannabis. I love my work and can’t think of anything else I could ever want to do.
I’m the luckiest person on the planet to be alive, to work with a plant that I love and people I respect. More importantly, I get to work with clients and witness the American Dream coming true with the success of building new companies. Pot Com Boom indeed!
MV: Any types of companies or services to avoid?
Shuman: Watch for the company that continues to create bold statements about their corporate objectives. Typically if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
As with all emerging sectors attracting capital, there will be scammers looking to capitalize on some of the misinformation floating around. Investors must be cautious, but if all investors remain on the sidelines, they will be missing one of the most exciting new industries to come into play in recent decades. There will be winners and losers, but the sooner we find out who they are, the better.
Editor’s note: The Sept. 23 GreenRush seminar has been delayed indefinitely.