Emma Chasen has a mission to educate people on the science behind cannabis so that they may take charge of their own healing.
After graduating from Brown University in 2014 with a degree in Medicinal Plant Research, Emma went on to coordinate Clinical Oncology trials with the Brown University Oncology Research Group. When her supervisor refused a Cannabis trial in favor of another expensive pharmaceutical drug, Emma quit and headed across the country to Portland, OR.
She found her way to Farma, the popular Portland dispensary that takes a more scientific approach to cannabis, rejecting the indica/sativa binary and instead focusing on chemotypes to determine effect. She began her career at Farma as a budtender and was quickly promoted to General Manager and eventually to Director of Education.
In this role, she was able to focus on educational efforts and create a robust training curriculum that focused on cannabis science, product knowledge and empathetic patient care. Emma now co-owns and operates Eminent Consulting, a cannabis consulting business that offers educational training and craft industry development for cannabis industry professionals and businesses. She helps brands develop educational marketing collateral and ongoing educational programs to further elevate their brand presence in a competitive industry. She also helps struggling and newly emerging cannabis businesses with business organization and sets them up for success in both the competitive medical and adult use markets.
Emma was named Portland’s Best Budtender of 2016 and featured in Newsweek, MG Magazine, Forbes, High Times Magazine, The Centennial, The Oregon Leaf and Teen Vogue for her work with cannabis education. She also co-hosts her own radio show and podcast ‘This is Cannabis’ and is also a regular guest on many cannabis focused podcasts and has been featured on television for her ability to explain scientific concepts around cannabis in a way that is accessible and helpful to the general public.
1. How did you get involved in cannabis?
I entered in the legal cannabis industry in Oregon just about four years ago. I was coming from the east coast; having been born and raised in New York, I then spent 5 years going to school and working in Rhode Island. I had just done a brief post-bac stint working in oncology research and I knew I needed a change. My undergraduate degree is a specialized Biology degree with a focus in Ethnobotany and medicinal plant research. I thought I could make an impact in the sphere of oncology research but the pharmaceutical company’s billion dollar hold on the cancer industry dampened any of my naive plans to bring whole plant medicine (and ultimately cannabis) into the fold. So I quit, packed up my car, and drove across the country to Portland, OR with my best friend on a bold whim. Neither of us had ever been to Oregon before. My original intent was to attend naturopathy school, but I serendipitously arrived in Portland just about a month before early onset of adult use cannabis sales came into effect. My friend found a Craigslist job posting for a budtending position in a dispensary (Farma). I needed a job so I applied and was offered the position. The rest is history.
2. What is your mission with Eminent and your Instagram presence?
With Eminent, our mission is to guide and influence emerging cannabis entrepreneurs to successfully implement a craft ethos and cutting-edge business model through scientific-based educational initiatives and authentic collaborative relationships. In everything I do, I want to provide scientific-based cannabis information in a way that makes sense to industry professionals as well as the community at large. And I want to provide as much access to education as possible. That’s why I try to use my Instagram presence to educate and advocate. I also use podcasting to provide accessible education for everyone across the globe
3. Where do you see yourself in the industry in 5 years?
So many different possibilities! I hope to see many of the projects I’m currently working on come to fruition. I also hope to have more global projects - New Zealand is the ultimate dream. I’d love to be working with a group down there.
4. What's the biggest challenge of working in the cannabis space and the biggest reward?
The biggest challenge of working in the cannabis space is that everything is a start-up. I’ve seen so many brands with such potential and excitement fail due to lack of proper planning, capital, market preparation, education, etc. This industry is hard and nobody is making money yet. It can be sad and frustrating to see quality brands fold under the industry’s many challenges.
The biggest reward, for me, is watching people change their relationship with cannabis. Especially people who previously held a negative stigma regarding cannabis and are now finding symptom relief and a better quality of life due to this plant medicine. It is incredible watching people’s lives change for the better when they have access to high quality cannabis and proper guidance regarding the integration of cannabis into their lifestyle.
5. Do you find you run into any challenges being a woman in the cannabis space and how do you overcome these challenges?
Because I am a young woman, there have been a few instances where I have been a victim of mansplaining. However, these have been few and far between. I present very confidently because I really do know my shit so people rarely challenge me. And if they do challenge me, I have a quite a long bibliography of primary sources and compiled scientific evidence that quickly silences any nay-sayers. I’ve been incredibly lucky to receive the support that I have and the negative experiences I have had, due to being a woman in this space are very few.
Photo, courtesy Emma Chasen