Lady Business: Activist and Industry Collaborator Dawn Blackman

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There are hundreds of cannabis events focusing on medical and recreational cannabis in Denver, Colorado every week. And at these many events, one might notice an ever-present individual helping to register guests, dignitaries, tourists, speakers and patients. That person would be Dawn Blackman, who is currently the Community Empowerment Director for Women’s Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, a group that gives entrepreneurs the educational programs, business tools and networking to successfully launch and sustain cannabis and ancillary businesses. She is also the Cannabis Concierge at Colorado Rocky Mountain High Tours as well as an Independent Associate at a legal aid firm that empowers citizens to know their rights and find representation. Recently, she was on the Mother’s High Tea Committee, an elegant tea party honoring and celebrating women and mothers in the cannabis industry. In addition, she volunteers and coordinates with Colorado Project Pay It Forward, a group that helps organize food and clothing handouts to the homeless as well as helping others in need. We are honored to feature her in Lady Business as her work exemplifies what we’re about at Ladybud — contributing to the growth of the industry with a backbone rooted in social progress, activism and care. — Diane Fornbacher, Publisher of Ladybud Magazine and The Ladybud Webshow on Livestream (which will host Dawn this Tuesday, December 2, 2016)

LADYBUD: How did you get started in helping people become aware of their rights and why do you believe it is important for people to know them?

DAWN BLACKMAN: We all have rights in this country, at least for now. It’s important for people to be able to afford to exercise them, or find them out. If we don’t know our rights, we don’t have any.

LB: How did you initially become involved with the movement and industry?

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Dawn Blackman in Denver, CO
Photo: Diane Fornbacher/Ladybud Magazine

DB: In 2011, I started out as a volunteer with Medical Marijuana Assistance Program Of America (MMAPA), just trying to find a fit for myself in what I thought would be an easy jump from the natural food and medicine industry I’d just left. I met activist Ginger Puckett at an event at Casselman’s (a venue friendly to cannabis industry events), and she let me know they were looking for people.

LB: What are some assumptions about Colorado that tourists who come for the Colorado Rocky Mountain High Tours get incorrect? What kind of strange requests are made by some of the cannabis tourists?

DB: It’s a tie between (them thinking) we can “just smoke up anywhere” and that they’re ready for our weed, especially if they’re from a non-medical state. Your “guy” in Akron can tell you his shit is from anywhere.

I haven’t had any strange requests, but we did have a couple who forgot to tell us they are Rastafarian (vegan), and we had their meal scheduled for a steakhouse. Luckily, I was vegan for 17 years and knew of a nearby Ethiopian restaurant.

LB: As you know, a lot of industry businesses and trade groups have come from activism backgrounds — Women’s Cannabis Chamber of Commerce and Colorado Rocky Mountain High Tours are examples. How have they unified both in order to be successful at maintaining progress as well as educating newbies and tourists?

DB: By having people who’ve been in the trenches and seen the history — lived it, really, they are getting a more accurate picture of what’s really going on besides what they see on TV in Atlanta.

That’s the info they’re taking back to their friends and relatives and helping to enlighten and change minds about a plant that is  here for us — by accident or design — and demystify everything that they are curious about.  

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Dawn Blackman in Denver, CO
Photo: Diane Fornbacher/Ladybud Magazine

LB: Can you speak to some challenges activists and people new to the industry encounter and how can they be more unified and progressive?

DB: I could totally go on about that forever. One thing that sticks out the most to me is to know the history of the movement and really respect and pay due homage to the people who made it all possible. This didn’t just happen overnight, and there are a ton of people we owe a debt to for their sacrifices, absolute real sacrifices so we can have come this far.

LB: As a patient, how have you seen medical and recreational cannabis laws hinder patients and unfairly judge them?

DB: Well for one thing, try to get a decent job that doesn’t have a drug screen. I work for myself because like probably everyone reading, I’m basically a walking DUI. And that’s the other issue; what is ‘impaired’ versus what the current law says?

LB: You were present the day cannabis was first sold legally in Colorado — can you tell us what the energy was like prior to doors opening at 3D Cannabis Center and what transpired the rest of the day?

DB: It was really incredible and somewhat surreal–all the news crews and everything were just like you see in the movies. I got to 3D at about 6am, and the first person I saw was (cannabis documentarian) Kim Sidwell of Cannabis Camera, who told me some poor dude (or several) had actually camped out overnight to be first in line, and it was really cold on New Year’s Eve, about 12 degrees. It seemed like everyone I knew was there, and even though only a few lucky people actually got to see Sean Azzariti buy his “one marijuana” from Toni Fox (previous owner of 3D Cannabis Center Denver). I felt super blessed to be there and breathe the same air as history. And thank God for Toni; and my business partner, Addison Morris — I owe her everything for allowing us to bring the first Colorado Rocky Mountain High Tours limo to the event. Addison handed out our business card to every journalist, reporter, camera guy, anyone who’d take it. Finally, one person from the Associated Press gave the company a single line at the bottom of an article (they totally butchered Addison’s name, but got the company’s right), and a little over a week later, I was calling my parents in Illinois and Florida to give them the heads up that I was going to be smoking weed on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 show. It’s been the most fun and fulfilling ride ever since.

LB: You are a very involved volunteer and work with many cannabis community causes helping refugees who are arriving daily as well as providing support with groups like Colorado Project Pay It Forward and Cannabis Community Empowerment – how can people in states with pro-cannabis access laws help others?

DB: Get involved where you are. Volunteer. Go to events. Have an event if there aren’t any. We are a real community with all the same issues as any other community. Come here to learn. We understand we’ve set the model, but take that knowledge back home with you to make it better where you are. So that eventually, no one needs to run away from home just to stay alive.

Feature image: Dawn Blackman in Denver, CO © Diane R. Fornbacher/Ladybud Magazine