Betty Aldworth joined the Students for Sensbile Drug Policy (SSDP) team in February 2014 as Executive Director and has since led the organization through its most substantial growth: the member base and campuses on which SSDP is present have doubled; staff and offices have tripled; global presence has quadrupled; and as a result the policy change and education efforts members are leading have grown immeasurably.
Since 2009, Betty has specialized in community outreach, public relations, advocacy, and policy reform as a consultant to or staffer for cannabis-related businesses and nonprofit organizations. She served as spokesperson and advocacy director for Colorado’s successful 2012 Amendment 64 Campaign to “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol”, the collaborative committee responsible for legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana for adults in Colorado, and was the Deputy Director of the National Cannabis Industry Association in 2013, the organization’s fastest year of growth. Prior to her work in marijuana policy and medical cannabis, she was a volunteer leadership professional with some of Denver’s most well-respected nonprofit organizations, ultimately leading a team of 4,000 volunteers who contributed over 40,000 hours of service annually.
When building the cannabis industry from the ground up, why is gender parity (having at least 50% women) so important?
Aside from the feminist response applicable to any industry: cannabis will soon be consumed more often than women than men if positioned properly as a health and beauty product in addition to a medical and social product. But for decades, cannabis culture has positioned women and bong-holding objects in sexualized poses and clothing (if any at all).
Many women feel alienated from that culture and from cannabis itself, and we can only invite them to consider the healing and social-use benefits of cannabis if they see women with whom they identify as users, producers, leaders, and experts.
What social justice and/or criminal justice reforms do you want the US to make around its drug policy, particularly around cannabis?
Ultimately, we’re fighting to end the drug war globally and regulate all drugs according to their harms and geographic context. Most urgently, ending cannabis prohibition, implementing harm reduction measures such as syringe exchange and drug checking, and ending the criminalization of drug users will rapidly advance human rights in drug policy.
Why are environmentally sustainable business practices essential to the future of the cannabis industry?
Put simply, environmentally sustainable business practices are essential to the future of every industry. The cannabis industry is under tremendous scrutiny and should strive to minimize criticism in order to advance policy; fortunately, as a newly legal industry, there is ample opportunity to create sustainable norms among producers and providers.
How do you incorporate gender parity, social justice, and environmental sustainability into your work and the growth of your business/organization?
We fiercely protect equal opportunity within our network and elevate women as leaders, center our work around human rights and public health, and frequently provide education around the environmental impacts of drug production — both licit and illicit — and supply control.