When we think about women in cannabis, we often only think about the women on the retail and manufacturing side of the industry. I wanted to talk to some women who are involved in other areas that we are all less familiar with so I was thrilled to get a chance to pick the brain of Dr. Sherry Boodram, CEO and Co-Founder of cannabis regulatory consultancy, CannDelta Inc.. CannDelta assists their Canadian and International clients in all aspects of operations from licensing and compliance with industry standards and regulations to developing customized SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).

“Being a woman in business can be challenging. Being a woman in a cannabis business can have an added layer of challenge as there are still stigmas around the industry that may cause women to face less respect than their male counterparts.”

Holding a PhD in Chemistry, an H.BS.c in Biological Chemistry and a Graduate Certificate with Honours in Pharmaceutical Regulatory Affairs and Quality Operations from Seneca College, Boodram could not be more perfectly suited to her career. In addition to serving as an Independent Board Advisor for Nextleaf Solutions, she also sits on the Board of  Canadian Association of Professionals in Regulatory Affairs the (CAPRA), another step towards her quest to bridge the gap between cannabis and other more established industries. So, yes, she is incredibly respected in her field with a wealth of experience and knowledge and punches way above my paygrade so I will let her words do the talking, for the most part.

“Mentoring is absolutely important for supporting other women in the industry in a meaningful and tangible way. When someone reaches out for advice, be open to giving it. If someone asks for you to mentor them, it’s because you’ve done something right in your career path along the way and your perspective has value. It takes a lot of courage to ask for advice and to be vulnerable. I think as a woman, having confidence is a big factor for success so having a mentor to encourage you can help to reinforce all the great skills and experience you bring to the table.”

I was interested to hear how Boodram’s involvement in the actual legalization process has affected her ability to advise companies in her current position as a consultant. She confirmed that her experience has absolutely allowed her a unique perspective and makes her a better consultant, at the end of the day.

“I worked at Health Canada as a Senior Compliance Officer under the regimes of the former Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) and was involved with field-level input into the Cannabis Act and Cannabis Regulations. In this role, I performed pre-licensing application reviews and conducted compliance inspections of licensed cannabis facilities. The invaluable experience gained from my time in government has definitely afforded me historical knowledge of the evolution of cannabis legislation in Canada including reasons behind some regulatory decisions, as well as given me a unique perspective of knowing what Health Canada expects of applicants and of licence holders. This translates into me being able to provide my clients with sound regulatory advice, realistic solutions to challenging or complex issues, and being able to manage their expectations by being transparent about government processes and timelines,” explained Boodram. 

When I asked if Canada serves as a sort of global ambassador as far as safe, equitable cannabis legalization is concerned, Boodram told me this:

Many countries do still look to Canada for their own cannabis regime development and cannabis reform, even though I think Canada still has a lot more work to do in ensuring our cannabis industry can maintain sustainable economic growth. Canadian-made cannabis is definitely safe, the requirements of the Cannabis Regulations set out clear measures for the production and sale of safe and quality cannabis and cannabis products. In terms of equitable access to cannabis, legalization has certainly provided more options for obtaining cannabis through the onset of a regulated recreational market with legal retail sales via provincially and territorial authorized retail stores.”

So many people still don’t really understand the ins and outs of legalization. They aren’t always sure where to buy legal cannabis, how to tell if a store is licensed for legal sales or how much you are allowed to carry in public.  She also thinks that the government could do a better job of public education on the rules around cannabis legalization.

We are all aware that there are still stigmas against women in the cannabis industry but I was interested to know if Boodram also faced challenges during her educational journey as a woman in the world of science. She said that her experience and education has helped temper most obstacles at work in the cannabis industry but her experiences at school helped to prepare her for that.

Definitely. As a chemist in graduate school, it was obvious to me early on that I had to prove my intelligence more often than my male colleagues. There were instances where I was not taken seriously, or my research not recognized or rewarded at the same level as male students, who in some cases, actually did far less work. For me, it was important to see these challenges as an opportunity to become better and to be resilient. The cannabis industry is similar to chemistry in that it is fairly male-dominated. Yes, there are still hurdles I face, and the glass ceiling still exists. Fortunately, we live in a time where people are more conscious of societal injustices, and the cannabis industry is built from a foundation of advocacy with current efforts that extend to correcting many injustices within the industry.”

With accomplished, passionate women like Dr Boodram at the helm, the future for women in the Canadian cannabis industry is bright.

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