What happens when a red-hot side project burns so bright it scorches your day job? Jane West's knack for creating super sophisticated events for Colorado's canna-friendly partygoers cast her into the white hot media spotlight -- and cost her a very nice corporate job.
The 37 year-old Wisconsinite had 15 years of experience in large-scale conference management and fundraiser event planning, but that stable career took a meteoric twisting ascent recently when her moonlighting career as a pot party planner caught fire.
After hosting just two #BYOC (bring your own cannabis) soirees, the Denver-based Edible Events and its photogenic founder created a veritable media sensation, garnering attention from the likes of The New York Times, the Huffington Post, and most notably CNBC's recent pot documentary, "Marijuana in America: Colorado's Pot Rush" -- as well as a pink slip from her employer dismissing her for consuming marijuana on her own time, a violation of their zero tolerance drug policy.
The closing of one career door often triggers the opening of a new one, and so AOL Jobs wanted to know what's next for the newly famous event planner and founder of Edible Events.
Q: Were you surprised that you were fired? In the news interview we saw, it doesn't seem like you were.
A: Everything happened so quickly. In one month I went from non-existence to coverage in The New York Times and London Telegraph. With each article that came out I was gradually thinking, "I could get fired for this...I might get fired for this...I will likely get fired for this." Then with the NBC news footage, I felt it was inevitable. I loved my job managing the western division for my former employer, but they had every right to ask me to resign based on the company drug policy.
Q: So if you knew you might get fired, why did you do it?
A: I choose to be filmed consuming cannabis for one reason: To change stereotypes of what a cannabis consumer looks like. I support adult, responsible cannabis use within my demographic, it would have been hypocritical for me to have refused to allow myself to be captured consuming on film. It is time to put an end to the outdated, uninformed stereotype that cannabis consumers are stoned-out, low-functioning 'dopes'. My cannabis consumption did not affect the high quality of my consistent work performance. In Colorado, voters approved to regulate marijuana like alcohol. But current employment policies do not support that. I just hope this starts a dialogue so that in the future, consuming cannabis is not something that you can be fired for.
Q: What kind of response are you getting as a result of your firing? Are you getting new jobs?
A: I am in talks with O.PenVAPE, the largest brand in cannabis, to use my professional background to develop national events directing their audience development. In June I am doing some underground events in Aspen during the Food & Wine Festival. I am also producing a corporate ideation retreat in July for a consulting firm. I am very excited about the possibilities that are ahead.
Q: What is the nature of the interest from marijuana travel groups?
A: My event series is so unique people are traveling from across the country to attend an event. So I am supporting local marijuana travel groups who are booking their plans to visit Denver for an Edible Events weekend.
Q: How long have you been doing Edible Events?
A: I have done two events so far, both received excellent feedback, each event is unique in theme and audience appeal and is a different experience. I am currently seeking an annual title sponsor for the event series who wants to co-brand their image with both upscale events and adult, responsible cannabis use.
Q: Is the work you're doing in pot edibles enough to sustain a living wage yet?
A: I do not produce or distribute pot edibles or cannabis in any form. I am a professional event producer, bringing together local, native businesses to produce an incredible event where #BYOC cannabis can be consumed. My events are costly to produce and were originally created to be a discreet, monthly event series as a pet project, so, no they are not even close to being able to sustain a living wage.
Q: What is next for Edible Events?
A: "There is an incredible market for women looking to reenter the workforce and put their skills back to work." In the past three months working in this industry I have met some really amazing female business owners and leaders in the industry. I would like to develop a network for women to onboard the next generation, while supporting the current leaders in the field. If I can obtain more support for this venture, all future Edible Events will be fundraisers to support this cause. For now I am accepting applications for the Women of the Cannabis Industry Mentorship Program: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Beyond Edible Events, what are some of your career aspirations?
A: "I would love to use my fundraising background to work for a Colorado gubernatorial candidate who supports regulating marijuana like alcohol in accordance with Amendment 64 and future pro-cannabis legislation."