3535 Capital City Blvd., Lansing
Before Leslie Pinder entered the cannabis industry, she was a psychology major working in a group home with adults with traumatic brain injuries and cognitive impairments.
A number of her patients were veterans, and as a veteran herself, she saw particular needs not being met. Pinder sought help to fix those problems.
“I just felt that my calling was cannabis because I would like for veterans to have safe and accessible cannabis, hopefully, at the federally legal level one day,” Pinder, 30, said.
When she started working on the retail side of the cannabis industry, customers who were veterans would explain their issues to her. It was easy for her to relate to these struggles and give individuals a safe space to feel heard.
“A lot of what I do comes out through advocacy,” said Pinder, now a customer success manager at cannabis cultivator Franklin Fields in Lansing. “I really try to be involved as much as possible with keeping up to date with different policies and changes that are going on inside of the VA (U.S. Veteran Affairs Department) — having that knowledge and being able to disperse it to people I work with on a regular basis.”
In 2020, Pinder got her start at Skymint Brands. She said she values the experiences gained here but exited the company in search of a career shift — one echoing her professional goals.
“My values and mission align with caregivers and giving people the freedom to grow their own product and have their own patients,” Pinder explained.
She then transitioned into a much different role: trimming and assisting with cultivation at Lemonati Family Farms in Lansing.
“Because it was a small craft grow, all of us pitched in and helped in other areas,” Pinder recalled. “I loved Lemonati. I couldn’t say greater things about the company. There just wasn’t an opportunity for growth with what I wanted to do long term, which is how I ended up with the company I’m with now.”
Pinder works on the wholesale side of Franklin Fields. Having explored the different roles in the industry, she said it takes one thing to do well: grit.
“I don’t think this industry is for everyone,” she said. “It’s very dog-eat-dog and cutthroat despite all the wonderful aspirations we all have for bringing this beautiful plant to the legal market. It takes a lot of tough skin, perseverance and finding the right leadership to reassure you there’s a space for everyone in this industry.”
Pinder described the cannabis market as being in a “crazy time” as prices for the flower decrease rapidly. She said the average price per pound is dropping at a rate of $67 per month. She said she fears for the ethicality of sales as costs plummet.
“Now, with that said, not all retailers are extending those same types of discounts to their customers,” Pinder said. “I hope it gets to a place where people are ethical. My one complaint about the cannabis industry … is the greed. And I see it not just in Lansing. I see it in every township I go to. I hope we get to a place where the benefits of the plant outweigh the profits.”
Pinder also mentioned the false perception that all people working in the cannabis industry are “giant potheads” who smoke weed all day.
“That’s not it at all,” Pinder said. “There is a lot of knowledge and education that goes into any position inside the cannabis industry. Everyone’s goal is the same. It’s to break the stigma and allow this wonderful product to be accessible to everyone at the federally legal level.”
With all of this knowledge, what is something Pinder would recommend? Right now, one of her favorite products on the market is the Jesus OG strain from The Hempire Collective.
“As a veteran, I suffer from a little bit of anxiety, and it is one of the few strains I’ve found that can calm my body down from that flight or fight space,” Pinder said. “But also provide me with mental clarity. And I rarely find products I know I will remember for the rest of my life. So big shout out to the Hempire Collective. Their team is cultivating amazing flower right now.”
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