Ones to Watch 2020: Charlea Estes-Jones
The inaugural Greenway Ones to Watch class were nominated by their peers as those will be some of the most responsible for setting the tone of Missouri’s newest industry. From activists to consultants to operators themselves, the following industry influencers are responsible for determining not only how the industry overcomes the obstacles of 2020, but how the industry will be better for it. The same questions were asked of all; submitted answers and related information edited for grammar and clarity.
NAME: Charlea Estes-Jones
COMPANY: The Dispensary, LLC DBA Cassville Dispensary
OPERATING FROM: Cassville
TITLE: Assistant Manager
BACKGROUND: I spent 12 years total in print & online journalism with 7 years as editor for a weekly county-wide newspaper. I’ve also worked 5 years in marketing, website development and eCommerce setup/management. I have a Bachelors of Science degree in Communications from Missouri State University.
Because cannabis helps so many people in one of the most safe, effective ways out there. When I was a teen, I watched my dad go through chemotherapy. I have no doubt that cannabis helped him live three years longer than he would have otherwise, so I was intrigued and supportive back then. Then, when Amendment 2 really gained traction, I spent a significant amount of time researching and conducting interviews for the news publication where I was working to educate voters. I fell in love with the cannabis plant and what it has the capacity to do for people. It was then that I knew I wanted to jump into this space with both feet and be there for patients in a different capacity.
My love for the plant also grew into love for the cannabis industry, its inclusivity, and the potential for improving people’s lives in my home state. Everywhere I go, someone reaches out to tell me a story about how cannabis helped them or a loved one, and that’s where everything really fell into place for me as a cannabis advocate. These heartwarming stories and the expanding research about all of the intricacies of the cannabis plant as medicine and what it can do to help so many illnesses and issues are why I’m here.
What is your vision of the industry in Missouri?
Patient-focused, growth-oriented, and with healthy competition. I joined this industry to help patients and so far, I think most of us in it are tenacious and determined to make it extremely successful. The industry has the capacity to do great things for not only patients but our communities, as well. A huge piece of that positive impact is the competition to bring the highest quality products to patients at the lowest possible cost, and our industry will do that.
While Missouri’s program is new and we are all learning where it’s going, many of those leading the charge from day one set a precedent in this space. The amendment language was smart and patient-focused, and I know every cannabis business that integrates that patient-focus into their business model will do well, because it’s what Missourians wanted to see in our industry.
I want to see the Missouri cannabis industry be a space where people from all walks of life and experiences come together to create a positive, healthy place for patients and their communities. That inclusive attitude is why I believe the cannabis industry here will have some of the best products known. Missouri has a strong agricultural industry and very talented people, and we will be a big competitor when it comes to all areas: growing flower, manufacturing products, and creating a positive environment for patients to purchase it.
Our performance now will lay the groundwork for when Missourians pass recreational in the future, opening up another huge market. Those products and how we as an industry are regarded on the medical side will drive even more sales and competition with the current tourism market in the future. I expect positive and big things to come.
What opportunity/opportunities does the industry create in Missouri?
Clearly the big answer is job creation and financial gain for veterans and local governments through sales tax to start. However, many of the people I’ve come to know and appreciate in this industry are some of the kindest, most inclusive, caring people around. While I could talk about Missouri’s strength in agriculture and innovation when it comes to a variety of other industries, I believe that the people in the Missouri industry are where our big strength lies, and opportunities will stem from that. No doubt we will see some people really rise through the ranks in the industry to create innovative products, technology and concepts just because they may not have fit in another industry space.
Additionally, every single facility applicant in the industry had to at least look at community impact prior to being licensed. Being willing to look at our businesses’ impact on the community speaks volumes about the opportunities available to Missouri from patients, to veterans, to employees, to business owners, to local governments. Our market is poised to do great things, from raising a substantial sum in tax dollars, but also the opportunities for advancement and growth of our employees and communities through cannabis industry support.
What is one thing you wish all Missourians knew about cannabis?
Cannabis is medicine, even if sometimes it doesn’t ‘look’ like it. Most Missourians see cannabis as medicine for what I call ‘the biggies’: cancer, epilepsy, terminal illnesses, etc. But cannabis is a reliable treatment for such a wider array of conditions than the average person realizes. We, as a state and as an industry, need to drop the judgments we make about people who use cannabis as medicine for less ‘socially acceptable’ treatments, like addiction and mental health issues. We have a horrific opiate crisis in our state, methamphetamine use is rampant, and affordable mental health services are scarce. Many recovering addicts use cannabis as an exit strategy for drugs and alcohol, and many use it to alleviate depression and anxiety. From back pain to depression to addiction, cannabis is a viable, safe option. Accept it. Embrace it. Let’s all drop the preconceptions and judgment so patients can get the help they need.