Lisa Snyder, Feminist, Plant Medicine Advocate, and Co-founder of Tokeativity
Lisa Snyder is the co-founder and chief innovation officer of Tokeativity, an international cannabis community for feminists that has hosted hundreds of events since 2015. She recently launched The Tokeativity Show podcast, where she interviews women on their path into the cannabis industry. She is a board member for Sweet Jane Magazine and the Oregon Cannabis Association.
Recently, she co-created and was an executive producer of Bridges, a web series on diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is also a digital artist, strategist, consultant, writer, and business coach. Snyder has been recognized for her work in Rolling Stone, Yahoo! Finance, Forbes, and other major media outlets.
Lisa Snyder graciously agreed to an interview in April 2023, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
[OnlineEducation.com] Lisa, you’ve had a wealth of experience in the cannabis industry. You’re a board member of Sweet Jane Magazine and the Oregon Cannabis Association. You’re also the co-founder and chief innovation officer of Tokativity, the world’s largest feminist community for cannabis culture. One thing that I really admire about you is that you led with your feminism and your artistic ability—your gift for creating these spaces or communities—and you applied it to embracing plant medicine, cannabis specifically. So can you tell me a little bit more about the liberation of women through cannabis?
[Lisa Snyder] Yes, I would love to. Well, first of all, thank you so much for this opportunity to connect about this. I am a very passionate feminist. Let’s zoom out for a second and talk about what a feminist is and what feminism means. It means equality. It doesn’t mean power over; it means power within, and it means power together.
All of us are born into a patriarchal society with patriarchal values in which we either have someone to look up to who’s doing it differently and who has figured out ways to buck up against the system, or we don’t meet anyone along our path who shows us that there’s a different way of thinking.
I had this amazing opportunity to go to a women’s festival that had been going on for about 40 years. It was created in the 70s, and women were trying to get their own bank accounts. It wasn’t even that long ago. It was a lot of lesbian women, and I do identify as a lesbian—I’m proud and out about it all.
And so just living this life, I’m thinking differently because I don’t center my life around men, and I don’t center my need for attention around men. By default, I have a different spin on things. I recognize that that’s part of this work, and it comes naturally to me because I’ve learned from others. I had others to look up to, and I continue to have those relationships. If I didn’t have those relationships and never went to that festival, I would not be who I am today, period.
There are a million barriers in the way, and there are a million barriers we put in the way; we add to it. And so my goal and my life’s work is to try to help myself and others recognize barriers—whether they be self-imposed or system-imposed—and try to go past them as quickly and easily as possible. And that has really been interesting to try to communicate to others.
Back to your question around feminism and cannabis: those two things are where the heart of Tokeativity is and where the work has been. With the rise of legalization and access to cannabis comes curiosity, comes experimenting, and also comes liberation because there are a lot of consumers. There are a lot of people who have been smoking weed for a long time, and they finally feel comfortable telling each other about it and sharing experiences about it.
One of the things that we started with was a ritual event that happened every month. Tokeativity was born in Portland, and we ended up doing things in other cities, but that monthly ritual…women have a monthly ritual that’s literally ingrained into their bodies, right? And we’re so social, and we have this deep desire as humans to connect.
When we are in spaces where men are not the center—where we are actually able to communicate with each other and share a joint and conversation—that could potentially go down a road of depth pretty quickly because of the environment. There’s a lot you can discover about yourself and other people. And so it was the combination of these two things, plus adding in really fun elements, like Reiki or massage.
We would always have a creative element at our socials because I am an artist. I did go to art school, and I really love creating experiences where someone feels something, or when they enter a space one way and they come out feeling differently.
I definitely have my own personal touch with the work that I do here, and there’s been a lot of women who’ve worked and still work with Tokeativity. It’s not just me, but where I left my imprint and continue to try to leave my imprint is through that change factor. That liberation factor.
[OnlineEducation.com] Speaking of all of the powerful women you’ve collaborated with, you know many of the biggest names in the cannabis industry. What are some of the barriers that women face in starting or leading cannabis companies? And do you think that the industry is LGBTQ-friendly?
[Lisa Snyder] Like I said earlier, we’re living with the patriarchy’s values. As we question our own values and get in touch with what are we valuing, how does that buck up against the patriarchy? How can we even know what those things are and separate them out?
When I say “we,” I’m saying women go into spaces and we don’t know how to speak up. We go into spaces, we see injustice, and we don’t know how to deal with it or what to do about it. Because the opportunity that comes down the line for us is this moment in time where we have to choose: should I say something when an injustice occurs? Should I say something to that guy at work, or will I not be able to feed my family?
It’s these really hard choices that women are constantly making, where they are putting themselves last on the list of priorities because nobody around them is even prioritizing them. And they’re used to that—the mindset is the barrier.
I have a small handful of women who have gone beyond. They are willing to tell the tale and are willing and excited to share resources. That doesn’t always happen, and one of them even passed away. Her name was Sara Batterby, and I always think of her because she helped me so much.
So the barrier is our mindset in how we enter spaces, whether it be our work environment or our value in our consulting environments. What are we willing to do for free?
Personally, I have a consulting business, and so I know the boundaries, barriers, and conversations that are stopping points for me, where I have to say, “I would love to talk to you more about that and I will. Let’s set up a time to talk.” So knowing your own boundaries and then communicating them.
Communication is a barrier because first you have to know what it is you want to say. You have to reflect on what you want to say. Then you have to figure out how to say it because different people absorb information differently. And the timing of it, too; sometimes, by the time we’ve processed, “What did I really think about that?” time has gone by, and it seems inappropriate to bring something up. Communication skills and coping mechanisms are some of the biggest barriers besides mindset.
[OnlineEducation.com] That makes a lot of sense, in addition to the financial issue. Raising capital is difficult for women in all industries, but cannabis especially.
[Lisa Snyder] Unfortunately, it’s going to be this ongoing thing until it bucks up against patriarchy’s value of “men do things better.” They just think like that. So automatically, women “don’t do things as well,” and that’s their mindset, so we have to prove ourselves.
It’s so much more work and effort to even communicate to a dude that you know what you’re talking about. You have to give them statistics and all the things you ever did, where dudes are just like, ”Hey, you look cool. You’re wearing a sweatshirt. I like your sweatshirt. What are you doing? And ok, three million bucks.”
You know what I mean? It’s just all about ideas. So I think there are a lot of areas. Those are the main ones that come to mind and that I think about every day because I’m trying to chip away at them.
And your question about whether the cannabis industry is LGBT-friendly. I think it is more than other industries. I would say that because we’re already thinking alternatively; we’re already thinking about different approaches and different types of people. A roomful of cannabis people could be suits or people in sweats—and that’s mostly accepted by our industry.
This is a general statement because I’m definitely not working in a licensed facility. I’m working with and consulting with people, but I’m not working for anybody else, so it’s a different mindset.
I’m also a white woman, and I’m fem-presenting. That affords me different privileges than maybe someone like my wife, who has short hair and a more butch identity. She’s not in the cannabis industry but might be treated differently, which I wouldn’t know on that level. But generally speaking, the cannabis industry is more friendly to alternative life.
[OnlineEducation.com] When the legal industry started, around 20 to 30 percent of the companies were female-led, but it dipped to around 8 percent. Do you have any ideas why that may be?
[Lisa Snyder] Yes, I think that has happened because at the very beginning of recreational cannabis—at the time of those statistics—I think there was Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, and that was really it. I can’t say exactly, but it’s interesting how one study can be ingrained into our brains.
At the time, there was a lot of room because nobody had done any of this before on that level. There was a flood of excitement and a flood of liberation when the walls were coming down!
Since that statistic, more and more states have come online. More and more male money has come into it. And I think with that expansion of states and other countries coming online comes more male-owned money. That’s just the patriarchy. We’re living in it.
The statistics will definitely be watered down. There is a Women in Cannabis study. Do you know about the study?
[OnlineEducation.com] Yes. You took part in it, right? It was 2021. Yeah, I read through it.
[Lisa Snyder] That was a really good one because I know that statistic is in there; [the author] was really trying to understand why and how can we do that differently.
I’m actually working on a book right now to try to uncover and unpack some of these things so that women can feel more comfortable and confident getting in and staying in cannabis instead of getting in and leaving. It’s called The Female Cannapreneur.
[OnlineEducation.com] I love it. You’re great with the portmanteaus, starting with “Tokeativity.” Something that you’ve talked a lot about in other interviews is the normalization and the importance of having consumption-friendly spaces, which really has been a struggle in this country. I don’t know if there are any places besides maybe Holland that has real consumption-friendly spaces set up. But what would the ideal look like, if we could have our druthers within Oregon? What would the ideal look like in terms of policies and consumption?
[Lisa Snyder] I just got some goosebumps because it’s really fun to dream! I think the ideal is if we had the same opportunities as bars. They’re bars all over the place. They get licensed by the cities. The states figure out how everyone makes money, and there’s a lot of money being left on the table—a lot of tax dollars that the cities, counties, and states just don’t get access to if they don’t create these spaces.
The tough thing is that we did have a space—a social club in Portland for a while, and it went away during the pandemic—but they weren’t allowed to sell cannabis. They were allowed to sell non-alcoholic beverages and snacks. And they made some of their money from the club and some sponsorship stuff.
People have yet to figure out an alternative model right now. In a perfect world, it would be ideal if we had bars and lounges where people could buy cannabis and consume it there. I know one of the barriers is the Indoor Clean Air Act and smoking inside, but we can actually expand to drinks and edibles; we don’t need to be smoking everywhere. If it’s all about fear of inhalation, then we can have bars and restaurants with consumption.
And that is happening in other places. It’s very rare and hard to do, and different states have different rules, but that would be the perfect scenario.
[OnlineEducation.com] Yeah, that would be great. As you know, the cannabis industry is relatively new. And many states, as their policies continue to evolve, are developing with social equity in mind. Those words have almost been drained of their meaning because they’re so overused, but do you think that any states are doing it better than others?
[Lisa Snyder] I think that no one’s doing it right. However, the people living in the state might feel differently because everyone has their own experience. I think from a perspective of being in Oregon and seeing what’s happening in New York…They have very different priorities than any other state that’s come online. They’re prioritizing the licensing of people affected by the war on drugs, and the first two dispensaries that have opened are equity licenses.
And that should be the way it is, but it’s not like that in other states. And every state, I think, learns a little something from the state before, but not everyone’s information sharing…
But in regards to the equity piece—and again New Yorkers might feel differently about it—it feels the most liberal and focused on prioritizing those licenses of any state I have heard or seen.
[OnlineEducation.com] You’re in a very unique position because you’re so connected with so many female entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry as well as people who enjoy it. So what is your advice for women and other underrepresented groups interested in starting a cannabis company?
[Lisa Snyder] I think the first thing is to get connected and to diversify your networks. That’s by seeing what’s going on in your particular location, your city, or state.
If there’s a networking group and also—I wish someone told me about this earlier—getting involved in a cannabis political group. That will really help you to get connected to what is going on locally and see how you can participate. Sometimes people think that laws get changed, and they kind of get grumpy about it; they wish it weren’t that way, but they don’t know how they could have been a part of that law or that bill that got passed.
It’s been really interesting to be a part of the Oregon Cannabis Association and see how our members go from sharing their own challenges to bills being created. I just saw that whole process, and I wasn’t a part of every single piece of it, but I [saw] how important it was to be a part of an organization lobbying for the cannabis space.
Also, get educated about your particular area and work with what is exciting to you, what is feeding you, and why you are even here. If it’s for the money and that’s the only reason, this is not for you. It has to come from a passion place, and you have to be smart about what you’re doing, when you do your homework. Where’s the hole? Where is the place that does not yet exist? And how can you fill that need, business-wise?
That is the kind of business that is going to be successful. If you’re just doing what everyone else is doing, you will be competing with everybody else who’s already figured it out. So being different, figuring out what makes you different, and having your passion guide the way. I think everything else will follow.