When Gill Pollard first launched The Her(b)life back in 2014, she didn’t necessarily know where it would go.
“I thought maybe my Mom would read it,” she laughs.
But in the years since, Pollard and her team have expanded their reach far beyond that, creating a space dedicated to celebrating the “feminine cannabis experience” through essays, photos, and interviews, a hub for women to connect and share their stories — both online and in print (the second edition of the print magazine is currently available for pre-order).
Today, in addition to serving as Her(b)life’s Chief Creative Officer, the busy mother of two also hosts The High Friends Podcast (which she co-created with Rachel Colic), and teaches a Cannabis Marketing course at Mount Royal University. And recently, her work was recognized by Notable Life, who presented her with the 2018 award for Cannabis Leader of the Year.
Near the end of 2018, we were privileged to sit down with the writer and advocate, to discuss outreach, changing attitudes, common-sense parenting, and the end of prohibition.
NOTE: Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What was your introduction to cannabis?
I was lucky enough to grow up with these very progressive, artistic, hippie parents. It wasn’t super in-your-face, but it also wasn’t something that was stigmatized or villainized in any way. They were able to speak really frankly about why they used cannabis. My mother suffered from a whole variety of physical ailments – fibromyalgia among them – that she was using cannabis to treat. And as I got older, my parents would definitely have it around me, which I think was a really great way for me to see that you can be responsible in your use. It’s not all crazy, party times.
Do you feel like growing up in a household with a common-sense attitude helped inform the work you’re doing now?
It certainly makes me more proud of the work I’m doing now. I think my Dad would be proud. And I think my Mom is into it, too. She’s always thought I was bizarrely attached to the internet, and that that was weird. But now she’s going: ‘Oh, look! It’s working for you!’
How long have you been an advocate within the cannabis space? What inspired you to take up this sort of work?
It never even occurred to me that it was something I could do until mid-2013, when I was approached by Renee Gagnon, the founder of Thunderbird Biomedical. And she said: ‘Look, I’d like for you to join this cannabis company I’m starting. Are you into it?’ And I went: ‘That’s crazy! That’s not a thing! But totally!’ I jumped in at that point, and some of my early tasks involved a lot of community outreach, and I just loved it. I loved talking to people about it, and I just never wanted to stop.
What was the inspiration for Her(B)life?
Originally, it was just a private blog. I’ve always been a writer – it’s always been an outlet I’ve needed to have. I thought maybe my Mom would read it. That kind of thing. But I kept meeting all these really great women who were doing very innovative, brave things. And I thought that I’d love to be able to talk about them. I also was thinking about how, in my own experiences as a marketer, I’m often on a shoestring budget. I didn’t often have the budget to reach out to media for big stories. And I thought: ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I could provide a platform as a jumping-off point?’ It could help garner media attention. That was the main goal. And then it kept getting more fun and interesting. And I wanted to write about more things, and I wanted more writers to contribute, and it all just kind of snowballed.
How have you seen things change during that time – attitudes and perceptions — both among cannabis users and in society more broadly?
I’ve seen a lot more interest and curiosity. Or maybe it was there before, but it was more dormant. I’ve had a lot more people actually asking the questions they’re curious about. I’ve seen a lot less judgement, too. And I’ve also noticed that within the community of people who love cannabis, attitudes seem to have shifted. Back in 2014, it felt very much like it was LPs [licensed producers] vs illicit market advocates. But it doesn’t feel that way anymore. It feels more like people are all working together toward a common goal.
I don’t know that it’s changed more rapidly since legalization, but as more and more regulation comes about, and as people start to get a sense of what this post-prohibition society of ours will look like, people seem to be more hopeful. We’re realizing that these things take time. A lot of time. But we’ll get there.
Do you think there is a need for more female voices within the cannabis space?
I think there’s a need for all kinds of voices – certainly female. I would love to see a site dedicated to the concept of the CannaDaddy, for example. We hear a lot about CannaMoms, but we don’t hear as much about CannaDaddies. Just Dads who use cannabis. People of colour have often borne the brunt of prohibition laws, so it would be amazing to hear more from them. Just so many more people telling their stories.
What role do you think Her(b)Life is going to play in the transition out of prohibition?
I’d really like for us to be one of those places where you stop in to check up on fun, engaging, positive content. We want it to be sort of similar to The Cut, or Buzzfeed – everything from education stories to ridiculous GIF lists. We love it. As long as it’s entertaining, and it’s relatable to somebody, then we’re happy.
In a way, things have come full-circle, considering you have children of your own now. Have you spoken to them about cannabis? How do you plan to do that? What sort of language do you plan to use?
I have a son and a daughter, and they’re both keenly aware of what I do. I talk about it constantly, and I work from home, so I’m forever at my laptop, and telling them about it. When we did a bunch of photoshoots for the print volume of the first magazine, I brought them with me – particularly to the shoot that featured all the Women to Watch. I wanted my little girl to soak up all the incredible, feminine power, and meet these women I admire so much. It was lovely to see her there, talking to them, and interacting with them. She thought it was pretty cool. Because there was a lot of photographers and makeup artists and models. And she now thinks I’m a lot cooler than she did before. So, it’s win-win.
Jesse Donaldson is a Vancouver journalist whose work has appeared in VICE, The Tyee, the Calgary Herald, the WestEnder, and several others. His first book, THIS DAY IN VANCOUVER (2013), was shortlisted for a BC Book Prize.