Joy Beckerman Maher: Hemp Ace International LLC
If her heart could beat any faster, it would. If she could be in ten places at once, she’d make it happen. If there was anything that could possibly be done to promote the industry, get it done with unrivaled efficiency. This woman is a powerhouse; that is honestly the simplest way to say it. Her drive and energy are pushing this industry as fast as it can go and it’s remarkable. If you’re not inspired after sitting in on our conversation with the renowned, Joy Beckerman Maher, of Hemp Ace International, then you were simply skimming it. Take a seat and get comfy because after you reach that last line of her interview, you’ll have no other choice than to jump to your feet and hit the ground running!
What was the deciding factor for you to join this particular industry?
I did not do the decide, the industry decided. Industrial hemp decided that it wanted me to be a part of it, so I am a part of it. I have been in this industry and movement for over a quarter of a century; it was basically my first encounter with information related to industrial hemp which of course is the fiber cultivar of the sativa plant species. That effected me on a cellular level and transformed the trajectory of the rest of my life.
What were you doing before the green rush?
Again, I have been involved in the cannabis plant species for nearly a quarter of a century. So, the green rush is groovy and cool and is everything we’ve been working for all these years. But I’m not doing anything different now than what I have been doing for the last 25 years. I developed a successful complex civil litigation paralegal career to feed and clothe my boys, who are now 20 and 22 years old, and keep them in brand new cleats! In terms of activism, I was quite focused on my own children; I was the founding member of their high school athletic booster club and treasurer of the PTA. I was very involved in their lives as a fairly obsessive mother. So, during my parenting years there was a diversion to my law career for financial reasons and to just be a highly involved parent in their sports and academic activities.
the green rush is groovy and cool and is everything we’ve been working for all these years.
But, I have been involved in the hemp industry and the movement since 1991. I owned the first hemp store in the state of New York in the early 90s called Heaven on Earth. In that lies a great story involving the Secret Service and all kinds of adventurous details… but I’ll leave that for another time 😉 And then when the first hemp bill passed in the state of Vermont, I was appointed by Representative Fred Maslack to serve as the Secretary of Vermont Hemp Council. So, I relocated my family there and served on that council for the entire period through mid 1998 while also running three separate hemporium stores and working in a law office.
Following that, I relocated to Seattle, WA and this is where I started the dual career as a complex civil litigation paralegal.
What are you doing to impact the industry?
Oh goodness. Where do I start? Well, I started the Washington state chapter of the Hemp Industry Association which is the national brain trust; they were founded in 1992. We have just started the state chapter program so thanks to the fact that legislation is catching up to reality. I was actually honored a few weeks ago for that a feat with the ‘National Hemp Activist of the Year’ award at the HIA Conference in Washington D.C. I also sit on the board of the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy. As an activist in terms of impacting the industry, I did something called Industrial Hemp Educates this February with the Washington state legislature and long-time HIA member, Aimee Warner of Cannabis Basics, who is one of my dearest friends, colleagues, and allies in this space. We funded these 148 educates, one for each member of the state legislature, and included a tremendous amount of information, samples, our comments on the various industrial hemp bills, as well as an incredible award-winning documentary on hemp called Bringing it Home.
So, all of the members of legislator received one of those educates and will soon be receiving what we are working on currently, an Industrial Hemp Policy Making Reference Material binder. Utilizing my background in law, I know how to put together pertinent information that will be helpful to officials; I have worked for very high-dollar attorneys and they have to have everything spoon-fed to them in an organized manner and that’s what I do for our legislature and our Attorney General and Department of Agriculture. This is a very important impact on the movement. On top of that, I am public speaking constantly; I go to great extent to travel and speak on Industrial Hemp and I am working very hard to create a market for Hempcrete and hemp building materials… A.) We will have the greatest environmental impact but … B.) It will give the rawest form of the fiber, the inner woody core, a market as soon as we can grow it and break apart that stock. So, that’s what I’ve been doing!
Describe your work ethic to me in one word.
Tell me about a time in your career that didn’t go as planned and what you did about that? How did you handle it?
Those of us who were really the first entrepreneur pioneers in creating the hemp industry in the early 90s know a lot about persevering through things that didn’t go as planned. It wasn’t easy, but we had to do it; we had to start this movement. And we all put our money, our families, and our livelihoods on the line to create a market and introduce products to people that they needed to see, learn about, and begin a demand. So, we did that! However, it’s really expensive when you take a heavy weed and lug it across the water in shipping containers. There wasn’t the consciousness that there is now for the industry. A lot of retail hemp stores came and went; we weren’t making money because there was this gap in the market between consumer and product. So, it came down to my next move. I was a single mom with 2 boys and I made the decision to move from Burlington to Seattle. I needed to move past simply just getting by. I needed to move and switch career paths to have a healthier income to support my family. So, that did not go as planned. I wanted to be solely in the hemp industry, but I had to move and take a diversion and work in civil litigation for quite some time, before eventually getting myself back to where I wanted to be. But I will say, it was for the best. Today, I use my past experience in law as tools for what I’m doing now; I just had to be patient in getting back to the path I wanted to be on.
What book have you read that you’ve been inspired by? Any particular read we should put on our list?
Oh, I have a book that is not something you should just put on your list, but is REQUIRED reading for anyone who is interested in or consumes cannabis or Industrial Hemp goods and food. Go grab it off the bookshelf, it’s called The Emperor Wears No Clothes and is by the legendary founders of the industry, Jack Herer and Chris Conrad. It is the story of prohibition accompanied by copies of all the historical documents that Jack and Chris dug out of the National Archive. They are the ones who exposed everything that we currently know about cannabis and hemp to the public and really inspired the beginning of the movement that we now know today as the Green Rush!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Let your spirit guide you!” and “Floss daily.”
How would you advise someone who wants to join the industry?
My answer to this tails behind my urge for everyone to read The Emperor Wears No Clothes. My advice to people is: KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! There is nothing easy or simple about the cannabis plant other than the fact that it is safe and should not be illegal. Everything else requires education, but not just any education. Be wary of your sources. I advise you to take college courses in Industrial Hemp. The University of Oregon has a course online; you can take it in your pajamas if you wanted to. The University of Kentucky has a couple of great courses popping up in their curriculum. There are even courses in some universities addressing the pharmacology of the cannabis plant; whatever it is that you may choose, educate yourself. Knowledge is power, take college courses!
There is nothing easy or simple about the cannabis plant other than the fact that it is safe and should not be illegal.
There are a lot of people out there who claim to know cannabis, but really don’t. When consulting attorneys, ask for years of experience, references, and make sure they haven’t been practicing for just a couple of months. If that’s the case, let them get their feet wet with somebody else, not you! Be advised by professionals who are well educated in the industry.
What is a skill or trait that you think is necessary to make an impact in this industry?
Just like any other industry, professionalism and ethics, a strong conviction, the power to articulate and speak with confidence, and the ability to deliver a high-quality product. That is the skill set you need to make an impact in this space.
What is the most important thing for us to know now about the legal marijuana industry?
That no cannabinoids are federally legal at this time. Not a single one. Not CBD, not THC, not CBG, not CBM. No cannabinoids are federally legal at this time. Even if they are extracted from the resins of the oil seed cultivar of industrial hemp. We can’t wait for them to be legal, we want them to be legal, we are so excited for them to be legal, but right now, that is the most important thing for people to know.
If we are sitting across from each other a year from now, how will our conversation about the ‘green rush’ be going?
The answer is entirely different depending if we are talking about the green rush of marijuana or the green rush of industrial hemp. If we are talking in terms of my line of work, which is the oil seed and fiber of Industrial Hemp, we will start the conversation like this, ‘So have you been able to pay yourself yet?’ But if you asked this question to someone who is involved with marijuana you will be asking, ‘Have you bought your second residence yet?’ So it’s two different answers for two different cultivar. Entrepreneurs who are in the marijuana industry are making money and they are making it now. But, as for entrepreneurs in the industrial hemp are still being held back from taking part of the boom. We can’t legally grow it here, we have to set up an infrastructure for it here, but once it comes, it will be huge. In something like 5 years, you’ll be asking entrepreneurs like myself, ‘Have you bought your second residence? How do you feel about cleaning up the planet? Isn’t is awesome?’
Take your power as a US citizen and interact with US legislation. They are there, they work for us, take your power, and get involved with legislation.