International Women’s Day: A Conversation with Bibiana Rojas
After founding Colombian Cannabis, Bibiana Rojas and her company merged with Canopy to further the LATAM sector of Spectrum Therapeutics. As Country Managing Director for Colombia, Bibiana leads the production centre for all of Latin America. It provides cannabis to Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, which in turn take care of sales and distribution. Bibiana’s passion for breaking down stigma and finding balance in the workplace inspires the rest of us to be better.
What made you decide to join the cannabis industry?
The first was making a change and really helping patients and people, giving them an alternative with a product they really didn’t know existed. That was inspiring to me, because I myself didn’t know. I went through the process of educating myself about cannabis. I thought “Oh my God, this is huge. Why are we not talking about this? We need to tell the world.”
The second thing is for me as a Colombian; people recognize Colombia for drugs. I cannot hide that past. When you think about drugs it’s not in a positive way, it’s in a negative way. You think about the drug cartels, the guerillas, violence, all this horrible history we have. In cannabis I saw the opportunity we have to turn it 180 degrees. The same plant that was misused by guerillas for profits we can now use to provide hope and dreams and wellness to our country.
Do you find there is a stigma when you say you work in the cannabis industry?
I do think there’s still a stigma, but it’s improving. Most people’s reaction when I say I work in cannabis, they think it’s funny. But then when I start talking, people say “Oh my gosh, that’s fascinating,” and it turns into a four-hour conversation and they end up being advocates of our industry. Even being a woman, people say “Oh, your job is crazy.” I always tell people that being an entrepreneur in cannabis is like skydiving. It’s to the extreme. There are so many more challenges, and I think people respect that now.
What does #BalanceForBetter mean to you?
I do think there is an imbalance. I think it’s been challenging. Normally when I’m in any meeting, it’s 20 men and me, regardless of whether I’m at Canopy or if I’m in a meeting here with congress. It’s all men and me. I think we need to do better at balance. I constantly hear that we need “men with gray hair, because men with gray hair open doors.” I understand why they say it, because it’s true, they open doors, but when you hire men with grey hair to open doors then it continues the stereotype. Right now, right here: I’m a woman with black hair and I am still opening the doors. I got all my licenses, and I got everything done. Even if we’ve got 10 resumes, maybe let’s look for five more that are women.
How has the medical cannabis field progressed since you started?
I do think we’ve changed in that we’re starting to normalize a few things. Here in Colombia, for example, there were about five countries when I applied for my license. Now they say they’ve handed out over 150 licenses and there are 900 new applications within a year. There’s a clear interest in the industry from business people and patients. We see other countries waking up, too. I do that moving forward, and that’s very reassuring. It’s becoming this snowball and it’s going to be unstoppable.