Cannabis advocate and the newly appointed CEO of Lifford Solutions Cannabis Portfolio, Lisa is ready to lead the charge with her next mission, ‘cannabis and hospitality’
When Lisa Campbell decided to enter the cannabis space five years ago, after receiving the license to legally cultivate medical cannabis for personal use in 2013, she was warned that she was playing Russian roulette with her well-respected career.
Having worked extensively in international drug policy—she worked in harm reduction at Queen West Community Health Centre for over 15 years and was the outreach director at Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (2013-2015)—Lisa, then 30, was choosing to enter the stigmatized industry that could restrict her future career growth and even her personal life in terms of travel.
But the ‘badass lady in the cannabiz’, as titled famously in a feature by Leafly, decided to move forward anyway.
Recently appointed as the CEO of Lifford Solutions Cannabis Portfolio, Lisa has always been ahead of the curve, identifying opportunities long before others and dismissing others that she knows will never take off—like the not-so-popular trend of using the word ‘ingestibles’ for edibles that she jokingly pointed out makes the cannabis-infused food products sound more like antacids.
While she always knew legalization would be a reality, there’s one thing Lisa admits she never saw coming: “Since my undergrad days at the University of Waterloo, I was always an activist. But I never thought I would be selling legal weed at any point in my life.”
With no more second guesses and almost a month to go before the legalization of recreational cannabis, it’s crunch time, and Lisa Campbell and her team have their heads in the game for their next mission: cannabis and hospitality.
Next stop for much-needed cannabis education: restaurants
As the founder of the Women Grow Toronto chapter, a networking event that connects, educates, and empowers the next generation of female cannabis industry leaders, Lisa has added yet another feather to her cap by founding a cannabis subsidiary for Lifford Wine & Spirits, Lifford Cannabis Solutions, and is helping cannabis companies navigate the emerging industry across Canada.
A family-owned business, Lifford Wine & Spirits is one of Ontario’s largest suppliers of premium wines, spirits, and beers to the restaurant and hotel trade. Lifford is now working with the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS), Ontario, to launch Hospitality Sessions, a monthly cannabis meet-up for the hospitality industry starting October 17 at Lifford Wine & Spirits.
“Previously, I was very involved in promoting edibles, and now, my most recent mission is to understand what it would look like if we crossed hospitality and cannabis. And it’s exciting right now for us because Restaurants Canada is starting to explore what it would look like if your restaurant needs a license for private retail to serve cannabis,” says Lisa.
While edibles won’t be legal until late 2019, it won’t impede people from consuming them at private parties in restaurants. It’s this concern, one that the restaurants in Canada are not fully prepared for, that Lisa and her team hope to address through their new collaboration. This new venture includes working with several mainstream organizations and personalities—including Food Starter, a non-profit food incubator funded by the City of Toronto, George Brown College’s Food Innovation and Research Studio, and Chad Finkelstein, a partner, and registered trademark lawyer at Dale & Lessmann LLP—to provide educational opportunities for food and beverage entrepreneurs.
The team is also exploring launching a licensed incubator space and will be hosting a conference, titled ‘The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Cannabis-Infused Edibles and Beverages’, on October 15 at George Brown College’s Food Innovation and Research Studio.
Father-daughter team ready to disrupt the cannabis industry
Growing up, Lisa worked at her father’s company and did everything from accounts receivable to shipping. “By working with Lifford I got a lot of experience working with events and that translated into the cannabis space as well,” she says.
While Lisa’s father has been a force in the wine industry, Lisa is an established expert in the cannabis space. The role reversal with Lifford Cannabis Solutions now has Lisa educating her dad on cannabis. “When it comes to cannabis, my dad has been smoking cannabis most of his adult life, probably all his adult life. It’s super cute because he calls it ‘grass’,” says Lisa.
Over the course of the last few years, Lisa was able to introduce and educate him about different strains. “The cool thing is that now we are going to all these road tours–we recently went to WeedMD; we did a private tour and he said he learned more about cannabis doing a private tour with master grower than he ever did in his entire life. And he’s 65. He’s super into it now, but it took time.”
And it’s this father-daughter collaboration that she believes will make all the difference. “When you look at the wine world, what products sell the best are the ones that are authentic and have an amazing story,” she says. “For years, we were talking about this idea because when we talked about legalization, from 2012 to 2014, we knew it was coming, it’s what everyone was talking about. At that time, my dad said, ‘you know it’s going to have the same route to market like alcohol’. But it wasn’t until Constellation Brands took over Canopy that it started to sink in for the alcohol industry that cannabis is coming, and that it’s huge. So it’s like, if you can’t beat them, you join them.”
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