Joyce Gerber, JD, Creator and Host of The Canna Mom Show Podcast
Joyce Gerber is the creator, host, and executive producer of The Canna Mom Show. This award-winning podcast has featured hundreds of female activists, entrepreneurs, and other important voices in the cannabis industry.
After earning her JD at Northeastern University, she worked as an attorney in family and civil service law. She also has served as a public school advocate, project director, and skilled fabric artist.
Joyce Gerber graciously agreed to an interview in April 2023, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
[OnlineEducation.com] Joyce, one thing I really admire about you is the role that you’re playing in normalizing cannabis consumption with your award-winning podcast, The Canna Mom Show. Before that, you practiced as an attorney for many years and also served as a school advocate and project director. Tell me a little bit about your decision to start your podcast.
[Joyce Gerber] Thank you for talking to me today. This isn’t really something I anticipated with my life. I kid that cannabis isn’t my natural habitat. I came to this role as most people do: great changes, desperation, isolation, and literally a lot of rejection. And that’s how I ended up in cannabis.
I’m a woman that thought she could do everything. I listened to Sheryl Sandberg. I tried to “lean in.” I was actually pregnant in law school and took the Bar and passed the first time. I have this whole joke about how I proved that my brain and my uterus could work simultaneously!
That’s the gist of it. I’m 57 now, and my kids are in their 20s. But when I had those kids, everything changed. I just could not keep up in the world of professional work. I just couldn’t do it. I could not do it all, and it felt like a personal failure; it’s a weird part of our generation.
I had been out of the world of monetized work, and that was how my life was. I was all sorts of different things. My husband had a better-paying job, and he had good health insurance. Kids don’t take care of themselves. This whole caregiver role…we don’t have any support, and I just kept dropping out of the world of monetized work. That’s my background, like a lot of women trying to “do it all.”
In 2016, I was back in monetized work. I call it my cannabis awakening. I went to Denver with my husband, and we did a private tour of the industry. I saw a grow facility and a dispensary. I joke that I came back to Massachusetts and told my teenage kids, “Kids, anything you know about pot is wrong!” And they were like, “Yes!”
But I didn’t plan on working in it—I used it. My friends used it. A couple of moms in the moms’ groups consumed. But it was always away. You’d get a bud, and you’d go away.
But in 2016, in Massachussets, we went to retail adult-use. At the end of the year, a contract position I was working in ended, and I couldn’t get a paid job. I have a master’s degree in urban policy, and I have work experience. It was infuriating, and I was getting really depressed.
I was meeting lots of other women just like me. They call us “re-launchers”—women or caregivers who dare to take time away from the world of monetized work and then you want to get back in. You’re never good enough. You need another degree, you need another class, whatever it is. I managed a budget of $100,000, and I organized events. I did all sorts of stuff, but it didn’t count.
So that’s where I was in 2017. I was getting depressed and starting to advocate. I’m an advocate by nature, and I was starting to advocate for women who couldn’t get jobs. I was getting very busy, and I went to career therapy, I call it, where I did some personality tests, and the counselor was like, “Joyce, you really couldn’t have designed a job that was worse for you than family law attorney.” I was like, “I know! I suck at it, and I hated it.”
But, I could see that law firms were starting to set up cannabis divisions. You just need one person to tell you you’re not crazy, and I was like, “What do you think about cannabis law?” And she was like, “Yeah, that’s a great idea.” So that was the beginning of the journey.
I’m like many men who went into this industry to make money, which I did. I went in to make money, and then I became an advocate, but it was really a job that I was looking for and I had to learn it. I spent eight months figuring out what this plant is. I learned the word “endocannabinoid.” I went to Women Grow events. It was very different from the world I’d been in, and I was starting to understand it wasn’t just slackers sitting around eating Cheetos. That’s not what cannabis is.
After six or seven months, I met a man at a cannabis event in Boston in the spring of 2018 who wanted to start a cannabis podcast media company. And he hired me to be his executive producer. So that’s how I started learning about podcasting and cannabis simultaneously.
[OnlineEducation.com] Awesome. On The Canna Mom Show, you’ve interviewed so many powerful women, who have helped to build basically every branch of the cannabis industry. You’ve had so many unique perspectives on the show. In your opinion, what are the challenges that women face in starting or leading cannabis companies?
[Joyce Gerber] Money, money, money, money, money, money, money! But I can’t explain that. I don’t know how to change the world until the Supreme Court decides that women in America are now humans…
There have been two generations of women like me. My mother’s generation couldn’t get a credit card in her name. But half of my law school class were women, right? My law school classmate, Maura Healey, is now governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We have power, and we have raised another generation. The men with the money aren’t going to give it to us. I can’t explain it. Now we do have some power and resources. Across the board, there are women at every level who can help with this, but Americans have become free-market fundamentalists. We have come to believe that anything good for big business is good for small business, which is bullshit.
This is a small business industry, and it has to be built differently. I don’t know how you’re supposed to get the money to trickle down. If the 200 women I interviewed got the money that Mad Men got, do you know what this industry would look like?
[OnlineEducation.com] A lot better. A lot more community-oriented and collaborative, I imagine.
[Joyce Gerber] There would be a lot more of us. Whatever it is, I don’t know why white men can’t see us. And again, I’m part of this abysmal generation. I’m Generation X. I’m a woman. Literally, people don’t see us…We had to play by the male game, and we had to try to contort ourselves to pretend that we were like them. But we didn’t really want it, and if we don’t build this industry in the caregiver image, it will just look like every other industry.
[OnlineEducation.com] Oh, that’s such a great point, and it is a caregiving industry. So many women have gotten into it for medical reasons and because they believe in the power of medicinal plants.
[Joyce Gerber] Almost universally, across the board, the women I talk to have healed themselves or healed someone they love after they came to it as their last resort. Now they’re becoming the people they needed, and they are building the industry they needed. For menopause, specifically, women now are like, “Oh my god, I have to suffer through this?” No, we don’t. Women are creating products to help.
[OnlineEducation.com] Regarding what you were just saying, on your podcast in December, you had a great line about Sheryl Sandberg. You said of the lean-in mentality, “I never understood why professional women have to be exceptional just to have the same opportunities as mediocre men.” Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
[Joyce Gerber] As I said, I felt like a personal failure because I couldn’t do it all. But I finished law school while also creating a human inside of me. Women are exceptional, my entire generation! And every time we stepped up, we were given more and more. It was as if we just kept accepting it.
I have a joke: I want to create a world where mediocre women can achieve like mediocre men. You shouldn’t have to be exceptional. That shouldn’t have to be a thing. It should be like, “I’m good at these two things that I get to do.” Being a mom and being a caregiver is a whole other skill set. Just because you have a vagina doesn’t mean you’re good at it, or even competent. That’s kind of where I come from…
[OnlineEducation.com] Talking about the masculine and the feminine, do you think American capitalism, by its very nature, is a masculine beast and industry will inevitably follow toward who has the most money?
[Joyce Gerber] We have a lot of stuff stacked against us. We don’t have banking. I couldn’t get a checking account for a podcast. I incorporated The Canna Mom Show in September 2019; I couldn’t get a bank account—a checking account—until March 2020!
[OnlineEducation.com] Wow, was that because it was related to cannabis?
I incorporated. I have an LLC: The Canna Mom Show. Every time I went in, they would say, “Oh my god, I love cannabis, but I’m not giving you a checking account.”
That’s across the board. You can’t have a checking account; you can’t run it like a normal business, and it’s very labor-intensive. There’s a lot of regulation.
[OnlineEducation.com] That makes sense, and the major players who have the money are the ones who can sit and wait and gobble up all the smaller companies. You worked as an attorney for many years and are familiar with some of the cannabis use laws. What would be the ideal laws governing consumption-friendly spaces, which I think is the pathway toward normalization?
[Joyce Gerber] I know, it’s tricky. When I was coming of age, you smoked inside—cigarettes—but now there’s no smoking anywhere. That’s a big taboo across the board.
I’ve gone to consumption events outside, which have seemed to work pretty well. And I’ve gone to parties inside, and I don’t really want to be around a lot of smoke, so I don’t know what the answer is, honestly. You can do private events now, but having public consumption inside is tricky because you don’t want to be doing just edibles. I’ve been talking to more people about beverages. That feels more like a bar, and it feels more comfortable, especially for people who don’t want to smoke or vape. That’s almost like a cultural change in how you consume your THC.
More and more biologists and chemists are working with this molecule to figure out how to use it in different ways. It’s not water-soluble, and they’re creating these bonds chemically on site. Still, they’re doing things so it can be dissolved in water—not just in fat—allowing a whole new way with different beverages, like alcoholic beverages that can be consumed within a certain time limit and can control how long it lasts.
I’m talking to more women scientists, and you’re still dinged because of the Controlled Substance Act, so a lot of scientists don’t actually want to enter this area. But we need everybody at every level, doing research and figuring out how this works with our bodies. It’s just so complicated.
[OnlineEducation.com] I wish they would give it the same respect as other pharmaceuticals, since it has fewer side effects than many major pain treatments, for example.
[Joyce Gerber] I was on a webinar yesterday, and it was a nurse talking about cannabis CBD products for senior care—especially for seniors taking multiple pharmaceuticals, which is actually pretty dangerous. I’ve talked to many people about this, and she was talking about how she’s working with her clients. If they’re taking something for pain, she’ll use a CBD salve or tincture, and then layer it with something else—maybe do an edible a bit later to control the pain longer. And then, that works out by reducing some of their pain medication.
It’s interesting to see how they’re working with people to figure out how to use plant medicine to reduce their use of pharmaceuticals, which is tricky.
[OnlineEducation.com] Particularly if the scientists can’t get the respect or the funding for their projects they deserve. Do you think there is a double standard regarding men versus women who use cannabis?
[Joyce Gerber] I don’t know if there’s a double standard so much as a stereotype. So when I talk about the podcast, it’s really a marketing tool to help get the message that women my age and older use cannabis, and there should be products for us. The industry is still marketing to dirty 20-year-old boys! That is a stereotype.
I don’t really like to go to consumption events, but that is part of the cannabis culture. I like to sit with my husband at night on our porch and smoke a joint and talk instead of having a martini. And that’s a different type of culture. It’s just kind of doing it and people seeing it—that’s how the stigma is gonna go away.
[OnlineEducation.com] One thing I love about your podcast is it reaches many people who are not that stereotypical consumer. What do you wish that more women knew about cannabis?
[Joyce Gerber] That we don’t have to feel shitty all the time, and we have options beyond pharmaceuticals and alcohol.
When my kids were little, I could have literally yelled across the office, “I’m stopping to get a bottle of wine before picking up my kids at daycare. Anybody want anything?” And everyone would be like, “Of course, you’re stopping at the liquor store.”
If I had smoked a joint in the parking lot before picking them up, I literally would have arrested myself! And I know that joint would have made me a better mother, and I feel bad about that now. I could have been better.
I think that’s it. I’m an anxious type A personality, and if I had known I had options besides pharmaceuticals or just suffering through it, that would have been better for me.
We get a very weird message, especially moms who are really busy. I would have been able to come back from work, take 10 minutes, go into my room, and have a little bit of cannabis. I would have resettled myself into my body; I would have done that pause—which I didn’t even know you were allowed to do—and then I could have entered back into my children’s world because that’s really all they wanted me to do. And I wouldn’t have had all that other extraneous stuff in my brain.
So I wish women knew that’s okay. Everyone’s so worried about being high. I don’t really know what people think is going to happen to them, but feeling grounded and connected and that pause…we just forget you can do that. That you can have that experience.
[OnlineEducation.com] Absolutely. You’ve hosted so many incredible voices within the industry. For you right now, what is the most important issue for you within cannabis?
[Joyce Gerber] Stop treating it like plutonium! My new thing is I’m taking a new friend to a dispensary every week—someone who probably wouldn’t go. Like I play tennis with an 82-year-old woman, who I took to a dispensary, and some friends who are lawyers. Every week I go to a community dispensary, and I was with a friend yesterday.
In Massachusetts, you have to go into a lobby, show an ID, and then go to a locked area which is actually the dispensary, show your ID again, and then you purchase your product. They check your ID again, and you have to exit through a different door.
And I’m like, can you imagine if this was how it was to buy a gun? Cannabis isn’t even that bad, and we’re made to do all of this!
[OnlineEducation.com] That is a Massachusetts-specific policy! I’m trying even to imagine what the justification is for that.
[Joyce Gerber] I used to joke that before the pandemic, we only really had medicinal out here, so the dispensaries were unmarked. You’d walk up to the door and flash the ID; you were identified by a camera, and then they would let you in…
The people making the policy don’t know what this is, and they are trying to protect the children. They’re always trying to protect the children. And as a family law attorney, it really pisses me off when people say that. No one is protecting anyone. I don’t understand why they have so much security. It is a cash-only business, so maybe it helps, maybe it doesn’t. Cannabis people can’t even own guns. They’re the only people in the whole country who can’t own guns!
Just start treating cannabis like a normal business. Treat it like a shoestore, and stop treating it like it’s plutonium! The women I’m talking to are healed. They become healed, and they want to heal others and be leaders. And there is no other industry that’s made up of people who are healed, who want to lead you. They’re just making so many roadblocks to make it as hard as possible. Stop it. That’s what I would wish.
[OnlineEducation.com] How do we get the industry back on track? Now the wealth is overwhelming the original cannabis culture. How do you think we could bring it back to the way that we would like to see it: a small business revolution with social equity and people empowered?
[Joyce Gerber] Creating a national organization, a political organization that’s like the NRA, representing the consumers. An organization that represents the consumers and has a voting bloc because that is how the NRA has power. I don’t know how else you’re supposed to do it. If the NRA can gather young people, I’m sure we can gather cannabis people to support this.
[OnlineEducation.com] That’s a really smart idea. I’m surprised something like that doesn’t exist. The closest thing to it is Tokativity, but that’s very feminism- and creativity-centered. My last question for you is what is your advice for women and other underrepresented groups who are interested in launching cannabis-related ventures?
[Joyce Gerber] I think women my age and older are a unique, exceptional generation. We got our law degrees, our business degrees. We leaned in. We thought we could do everything the boys did. And we did, all the way through education, except then we got to the point of having children, or our parents got sick, and we became caregivers. We dropped out of the world of monetized work.
But we’re back, and we have resources, and we are healthy. We need you, all those who are like, “What is my purpose? What am I going to do?” Whatever skill set you have, whatever it is you do in the world, cannabis is like the real world but upside down—and we need you!
This is a very specialized industry. If you do something in marketing, we have marketing restrictions. There’s another level of people trying to do creative things to get around these rules. Whatever it is you’re doing, cannabis is specialized. It’s an amazing opportunity for women my age looking for something else and the next step. We’re like pioneers. We’re the pioneers of this.
Whatever the thing is that you do well, find a place in cannabis because they need you. I’m telling you, they need you. And at some point, we’re going create this really amazing industry, and it will make us healthier. The next step is hemp. Hemp is going to save the world if we can figure that out. But it’s all together. It’s all the same plant.