If you’re in NorCal and test with CannaSafe, there’s a huge chance that you’ve met Kevin Lewis, our amazing Senior Account Executive. He lights up any room he enters and is always looking to make sure our clients are having the best experience possible. He is much more than just an employee; he has purpose in everything he does and lives to be as authentic as possible.
We love Kevin and wanted to learn more about his experience being a part of the LGBTQ+ community and the cannabis community. Read on for a great story and amazing advice.
How did you get started in the cannabis space?
I have been a consumer my entire adult life. A few years ago, six months after moving back to San Francisco after being gone for 18 years, my brother died of an overdose. He was 49—and I am three years younger. It shook me to the core. He was my best friend and one of the best people you would ever want to know. It made me reevaluate my life, and what I discovered is that I want to make a difference in this world and live my AUTHENTIC life before I go. So, I quit my job and decided to take a leap of faith and enter the cannabis industry. I first worked on educating myself by going to Oaksterdam University in Oakland and reading several books on cannabis and its properties (other than just getting high). I went to every meeting I could find and made it a point to be an activist, including becoming a member of Brownie Mary’s democratic party. It was one of the scariest things I have ever done. I left a good paying job and a career of 32 years. I had to surrender and let myself be free to learn, grow and open up to people in way I was not used to. It has been one of the best decisions of my life.
What is your role at CannaSafe and what has your journey been like here?
I was reluctant to start with CannaSafe but saw through the forest. It was a huge step to begin a new career in the unknown world of cannabis. Everything was so new every company was new. It wasn’t just starting to work for a startup company, but it was a startup industry that gave me pause. It was not a decision that I made lightly. Either I was going to be a part of Cannasafe 100% or not at all. Once I had a better understanding that we are based on consumer safety, integrity, and quality I decided to make the jump. First, I met with Antonio (President), and then Aaron (CEO). They said “GO!”, and I did. Since I started, I have gone from an Account Manager to Sales Executive, and I am currently a Senior Sales Executive. It is ever changing, and I love it. I was able to find a place that valued me both as a professional and as a person. I feel like we have grown together and enlightened each other to worlds we never would have known. We are based in consumer safety and integrity which fall in line with my commitment to live my authentic life. I love what I do! I make a difference! We are changing the world one test at a time. Thank you, brother.
What has your experience been as a gay man in the cannabis space?
I thought there would be more of us out there to be honest. I love the diversity in the cannabis industry and have felt welcomed on every level. I am very much a token still.
Do you feel supported?
To be perfectly honest, I grew up not feeling supported and felt like I was a big tree trying not to get knocked over, cut down or burnt to death (figuratively speaking) because I refused to ever be “in the closet”. You find support within your community—and not just a gay community—but a community of thoughtful, caring people who have your best interest at heart. I thought many times I would break, but I did not want that to be my story. Then, it seemed like out of nowhere …. gay people are OK! No longer were they “a pervert” or “the underbelly of society”. Needless to say, once the law caught up with our lives—we went and got married. Mind you we have been a “married” couple since 1988 and now finally it is legal. It brings me to tears at times to be able to say “this is my husband” without fear.
What do you appreciate about the cannabis community?
I appreciate the “can do!” spirit that is alive in the cannabis community and to be a part of something bigger than myself is humbling at times. I am surrounded by an entrepreneurial spirit that both inspires and motivates me, every day. It is great to see the younger generation going for it. Now is the time!
What are the things that need to change?
Taxes, pricing and access for cannabis. It is always interesting to me the companies now that have their rainbows on everything from Pre-Rolls to T-shirts, but they have nothing to do with empowerment or community (but they do love rainbows). I had this talk with Antonio and asked him, “who do we want to be?”. Not only do we have fabulous T-shirts to wear, but we are a part of the gay community financially by supporting local groups as well as our hiring practices. We are a company that walks the walk vs. just the talk, or in this case, a rainbow. I feel like it is about money and exposure for most companies. On the flip side… thank God someone realized that we gays have power and not just financial benefits. Community.
What are the intersections you experienced in the LGBTQ+ community and the cannabis community?
In one word—STRUGGLE. As I had mentioned, I have been a consumer my entire adult life and I am 53 years old. I lived in San Francisco during the AIDS crisis and lost lots of friends. I remember Brownie Mary going to Pride and street fairs with her Pot brownies, but was too young to appreciate that was the beginning of prop 215. Cannabis has always been a part of the gay community. It took people dying to make this happen, and I am forever indebted to those who went before me. I think because in the past we did not have kids and were free to party without many consequences. So, puff puff pass 😊
What is your favorite product/strain and why?
I am asked this all the time. Due to my education, strain does not matter too much to me. I focus on effect. Example: CBD for a wake and bake, sativa for an outdoor concert, hybrid for every day, and indica to disconnect and relax.