How Lisa Campbell Convinced Her Family’s Business to “Come Out” in Cannabis

People used to look at Lisa Campbell like she was raving about the Rapture when she’d say cannabis would soon be legal in Canada. Now on the eve of legalization, she looks more like the prophet of pot.

After bringing the popular women-in-cannabis network Women Grow to Toronto with Jenna Valleriani and starting the grassroots cannabis marketplace Green Market Toronto, Campbell was recently named the first cannabis portfolio specialist at her family’s business. Lifford Wine & Spirits is one of Ontario’s largest suppliers of premium wines, spirits and beers to the restaurant and hotel trade. Lifford will support licensed producers in marketing and selling their products to government and retail stores across Canada. Her father, Steven Campbell, is Lifford’s president.“It’s really special for me,” she says.

Campbell hosted Hempster at the mighty boardroom table in Lifford’s elegant basement tasting room to talk about continuing the family legacy, why moms love edibles, and how she knew the Liberals were serious about legalization (hint: $$$).

I’ve been a cannabis consumer all of my adult life. In 2014 I was working for the Liberal party candidate Kyle Harrietha during the byelection for Fort McMurray. Working with the Liberals I learned there were a lot of Liberal staffers who were invested in marijuana. We would be in the office and I would bring up cannabis and they’d be like, “Oh yeah, I’m invested in this company.”

I kind of knew that if Liberal staffers were invested in marijuana that there was no way they’d be like, “Oh we were just joking about legalizing.”

Trudeau ended up winning and 2015 was when we went full force. Jenna Valleriani and I started the Women Grow chapter in Toronto September 2015. Two years ago April, we had this spring market where we had topicals and edibles and all different kinds of products.

We had maybe two tables selling grey-market products. And [laughs] we got in so much trouble [from the organization’s leading body Women Grow National]. Women Grow is a federal company in the United States subject to U.S. law. They can’t do anything that is grey or illegal.

I wound up taking all of the grey-market activities that we were doing in that space and starting a second company that wasn’t affiliated. That’s how Green Market Toronto was formed.

We had [the first one] on Mother’s Day by accident. People brought their moms. Some moms brought their strollers. It was more of a farmer’s market vibe. We had probably ten vendors and over 300 people attending the first event. Moms I find don’t want to smoke per se, especially if they have young kids. There’s a smell. There’s an odour. You need to have that conversation.

I kept on meeting moms that were super consumers. They would come to the market with $400, $500 and would buy all the products, just stock up and put them in the freezer because they didn’t know when the next time they were going to get access to all this stuff. We were their only access point.

Green Market got much bigger after that. It got to over 1000 for our last event. It’s on hold now. We’re saying that it’s snowbirding. It’s hiding from prohibition.

I’ve been pitching [my dad] for years to get into the cannabis space! We’ve fought about this so many times, about when the right time to do it is. Ultimately you have to get the entire company on board at a leadership level, it can’t just be top down, like, “We’re DOING THIS!” We have all of our VPs on board supporting it.

At the end of the month [my dad and I] are going to [licensed producer] WeedMD for a tour. It’s going to be my dad’s first tour of a legal cannabis grow. He’s 64, and he has been consuming all of his adult life, since before I was born. It’s super special to be able to go on this journey with him.