I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Cure, CEO, and co-founder of Emerald Exchange (EmEx). EmEx is a modern farmer’s market experience conceived to introduce exceptional small-scale, craft cannabis cultivators to the Southern California market.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”? How did you first get into this business or get interested in the business?

I appreciate your interest in my story. It’s a been a real journey… When I was 19, my friend introduced me to the medicinal properties of cannabis, and the potential to grow my own medicine. I found relief in treating an autoimmune condition, and that was the genesis.

In conjunction with the guidance from Dr. Christine Surrago, and a homeopathic approach to treatment options, I’ve been able to achieve my ultimate goal, which is identifying viable solutions for my health based in plant medicine.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

It’s not so much one moment as a state of being. There’s this web of connections now where I’m coming across people I know, but may have never actually met in person. We’ve grown up in this industry together, communicating on the phone or exchanging email conversations. Now, i’m starting to run into people in person for the first time. It sounds funny, but even though I create events for thousands of people, I’m actually a very private person. People come up to me at events now and say, “wait… you’re Jessica!?” And then we trace our history together, and it brings our relationship to a new level. I’m at a place where I feel grateful to be surrounded by so many genuine people.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Since joining the cannabis industry at an early age, under very different political conditions than we have now, I’ve been traveling the state of California, connecting cultivators with the rest of the supply chain. In the past, I owned a medical clinic in Los Angeles. That was a small scale version of what I’m doing now with Emerald Exchange.

With my current company, we create an environment to bring the entire California cannabis community together from Humboldt down to San Diego. We were able to start a business with this small goal in mind to showcase more intimate and intentional grows, and now that vision is expanding into part of a bigger craft cannabis movement where we strengthen the future of appellations and act as the voice of small farms.

Hmmm, a story? I was producing one of our more recent events, and I’m riding around on a golf cart checking on how things are coming along, and I got to the top of this hill where my friend Emily was standing there. She says, “Jessica, I’m here with the happiness squad to greet you.” So, here I am, up on this hill, getting a group hug, friends are bringing me terpenes, others are feeding me fresh rice crispy treats that they made for the event. I just looked around and realized everyone here is someone that I met along my path. And now this has taken on a life of it’s own and the community is creating the space, and I’m just making a container for all of this. That was such a euphoric moment where all the stress of pre-production left my body, and I just said to myself, “Yes! It was all worth it!”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My family for supporting my passions. My father who has his own business and has taught me how to create a sustainable model for my future, taught me how to stay positive, learn from my mistakes, and most importantly TAKE RISKS.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

Yes, we’re creating a new kind of business gathering that is not exclusive to cannabis. This started when we were trying to find solutions to the current restrictions for cannabis events. We’re now integrating brands outside of our industry and building something with a much bigger reach that is more cohesive in private spaces. We’re also keeping our mission to build our community in sight, but expanding the impact.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?

Let’s start with top three concerns:

1 Regulations in their current form are making it difficult for all of us to survive in this industry.

2 Medical patients don’t have safe access to medicine nationally.

3 Lack of suitable banking solutions for cannabis businesses.

Top three elements that excite me:

1 I love building community and having the ability to bring plant medicine to light and share this knowledge with people who can benefit.

2 Being a part of the whole process is super exciting. I remember rallying for prop 215 downtown, and now I’m looking at my role in the international cannabis trade!

3 I’ve been able to create something that I’m really proud of as a woman in this industry, and I want to inspire other women to do the same.

Can you share your top “5 things you need to know in order to succeed in the Cannabis industry”? Please share a story or example for each.

1 Think out of the box, be resourceful. Just because one avenue exists in front of you, that doesn’t mean that it is your only option.

2 Your reputation means a lot, it is a small community. Always act with integrity.

3 Keep moving. Don’t get stuck on an idea. Keep evolving as the industry evolves. Be ready to pivot as our regulations change fairly quickly.

4 Be compassionate — not everyone understands our movement. Let’s bring people into our fold gently while we counter 90 years of global prohibition rhetoric. If you come across someone who is ignorant, take a soft, educational approach. Share one inspirational aspect of your goals with the industry or one way that cannabis medicine has helped you overcome a health concern.

5 Be a problem solver. There is much to accomplish and a global marketplace to discover. You’ll be successful if you can identify solutions rather than focusing on obstacles. This is true for any business.

Where do you see your business going in the next 5 years? Where do you see the cannabis industry going in the next 5 years?

For the Emerald Exchange, we’re really focused on staying true to our core values while also identifying ways to maintain a scalable model. Since our festival event is a true hybrid of B2B and B2C engagement, we have numerous avenues where we want to contribute and where we also see opportunity for growth.

As a team, we are str
ucturing our organization to support farmers, branded product distribution, wellness education, cannabis tourism, and most importantly, provide quality experiences.

Are you able to identify any rising stars at your company or in your industry that people need to keep an eye on?

We come across so many beautiful companies that are aligned with our objectives and that share our vision for what California cannabis can be. Not just here in our state, but as a quality export for those around the world who truly appreciate the harvest unique to our land and to our culture.

Especially with Emerald Exchange, we try to identify ways to help small businesses that we see as creating solutions and building community. White Buffalo is one such company where Founder Courtney Freeman is making strides to bring awareness to environmental concerns, create community events that help us to act as a unified force, and bringing mindful, intentional products to market.

Courtney has personally inspired me to look more deeply into ways that I can share my story to empower women as business owners and to take steps where I can publicly add to the rising chorus with this message that cannabis is medicine.

What growth sectors should most people be paying attention to that they might not be currently?

Ancillary businesses that don’t touch the plant but are cannabis related. From an industry insider standpoint, it makes sense to support those businesses that are taking a risk in associating their product with cannabis. It’s not always an easy move to say to friends, family, or former co-workers that this is what you are doing now, that you believe in the power of this movement, and that you are building a livelihood around it.

Do you have an opinion on full adult use vs. medical and the political back and forth. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how that will affect the industry in the near future.

This is an expansive topic! Adult use is a step toward safe access for more people with less obstacles. If we can frame it in the right context and get education to enough people, we’ll be embarking on a new era where endocannabinoid deficiency becomes a thing of the past.

CBD aka Cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that comes from cannabis. It is also derived from many other plants that are not federally illegal. CBD engages with our nervous system or specifically our Endocannabinoid System through our receptors. There can be many health benefits such as reduced anxiety, a greater sense of well-being, a higher state of homeostasis that contributes to our ability to ward off disease.

Now that we are reintroducing these components to our diet due to legalization, we will start to see more and more people finding relief from various ailments.

In regards to the medical supply chain, there is of course, less political controversy. There is less of a likelihood for federal intervention with the medical market. Ultimately, I see a need for the medical product offering to meet the needs of patients whether that is higher concentration of THC for cancer treatment, or healthy cannabis infused treats for the elderly who need to eat, put on weight and potentially reduce a dependency on pharmaceuticals.

I’d also like to stress the importance of affordability. We don’t have health insurance subsidies for cannabis medicine. It can be quite expensive to treat critical health concerns and to purchase the formulas that are engineered to treat specific illnesses. As an industry and as a humane culture, we need to make sure that medical patients are able to obtain the medicine that so many people fought to legalize.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Yes, Jessica Alba would be a great person to meet. In my head, I’m thinking about a lunch overlooking the water in Malibu. She seems like she would have a serene vibe. I’d like to ask her about how she keeps her calm with meeting the needs of her family and her business Honest Co.

I see her brand as a successful model for a natural product line. They’ve managed to keep things affordable while still maintaining authenticity with quality ingredients. From my perspective, they’ve also stayed true to the to the company’s core values, which is difficult when you have products in major grocery stores across the US.

I’d like to talk to her about integrating hemp in some way. Hemp plastics are an alternative to petroleum-based plastics that can also reduce the risk of methane emissions in landfills. Perhaps they could consider reusable, multi-use bottles for their products? They could be very influential in supporting more awareness of the industrial impact on the environment.

In a way, this is what we want for EmeEx. We’re envisioning EmEx as being a model for how a pro-cannabis business can transition the industry limitations that we currently see with cannabis, so that we’ll have more traction in the adoption of cannabis and hemp-friendly synergies with other industries. As this enterprise evolves and grows, we’re outlining clear objectives in how we can maintain our own authenticity in representing the values that brought us to where we are now as a thriving organization.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!