Greta Gaines continues to lead the Cannabis movement, advocating for the plant on a number of platforms as well as pushing for normalization. In 1992 Greta was the only female participant in the first world extreme snowboarding championship and became the face of the sport which at the time was dominated by men.
Today she’s changing the Cannabis Landscape, advocating for education, an even playing field and is the Co-Founder / CEO of Love + Hemp , a CBD Beauty Company.
Changing the cannabis landscape, Greta Gaines connected with Jay Morzaria to chat about her athletic career, pivot into cannabis, advocacy work and companies she’s brought to life.
There are a few pioneers in a game moving the needle forward, constantly at the forefront and paving the path for others. I’m excited to connect with you to talk about all things cannabis, your movement, and the work that you’ve taken on alongside Love + Hemp.
Before we take a deep dive into cannabis, the journey all started with your love and passion for sports. You’re a former competitive skier and the face of snowboarding for a while, which (at the time) was a sport dominated by men. What was it about skiing and snowboarding that ultimately pushed you to make a career out of it?
“Growing up with Southern parents, my dad had this idea about teaching himself to ski as well as having all three of his kid’s ski, and in 1969 we moved to New Hampshire. At a young age, my dad taught us how to ski and I had an incredible ski coach when I was eight years old at Lake Sunapee. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the greatest ski racer and wasn’t comfortable going fast on skis, but I loved it and continued to pursue it.
For me, the game-changing event was watching my little brother Shelby who was twelve at the time, win the Regional New Hampshire Ski competition. At the time he went to Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, and one perk about growing up in New Hampshire is that they’ll let you take a term off if you’re a good ski racer and use the winters to race.”
“We were able to do that at Stratton with my uncle Don Burke, who unfortunately is no longer with us. He was the headmaster at the time and always looked out for us. When I was twelve years old, Jake Burton Carpenter was at that mountain with prototype snowboards and my little brother was lucky enough to take them home.
We had the original Burton snowboards from 1982 and would practice snowboarding every day in our yard, (because we lived on a hill). We were skiing, just for fun as well as teaching ourselves how to snowboard. It wasn’t until I graduated from Georgetown in 1989 and moved to Wyoming with my boyfriend at the time, (who was an NCAA slalom racing champion), that I really started getting into snowboarding. When we got out there he was skiing all day and unfortunately, I had no one to ski with. There was just so much powder and I was an East Coast skier… I wasn’t sure what to do with so much snow… I decided to get my older brother Latham to send me one of his old Burton snowboards and taught myself that winter of 1989 in the backcountry how to snowboard… Literally, it was just so I could keep up with the other skiers.
I think the reason I got so good so fast was that I didn’t really turn much. Once I got off the lift I would fly down with as few carves as possible just so I would have some people to ride with. After that, I got fast and never looked back.”
You were hooked…
“I was totally hooked. It was a completely different feeling from ski racing. I always felt constrained by ski racing, whereas Snowboarding was my true calling. I felt completely liberated by it and it showed, after two seasons I was better as a snowboarder than I’d ever been as a skier.”
How prevalent was the scene (of cannabis) when you were competing -And how were you ultimately introduced to cannabis, was it for athletics, or was it more of a personal relationship prior?
“When I was at boarding school, there was a parking lot where a lot of ski racers, jumpers and ‘wild childs’ of the school would hang out. We would smoke pot every day at the high school in the back or in the bathroom, and it was totally recreational. We just liked it and we liked getting away with stuff and personally, I always preferred it to drinking.
I didn’t realize until years later that my ‘recreational’ use was helping. I’d always been very sensitive and had a highly tuned nervous system. I was prone to anxiousness, anxiety and stuff like that. I now understand that even though I thought I was just doing it for fun, and it was all in the snowboarding scene, –like when we were in Alaska, we would literally do huge bomb hits and get into the helicopter to go take our runs-, that there was a medical application to it. It’s just crazy, now that I think about it, but it made sense at the time. I think that we were self-medicating to help us forget that this is really scary. When we got up there (to the top of the mountain), we had just watched a famous film of a skier tumbling from the top of a hill in a red jumpsuit, all the way to the bottom breaking his legs and more. We knew how much of a deathtrap the backcountry of Alaska could be, and I think it was just part of trying to deal with some of that fear.”
A lot of other elite athletes have also alluded to the same thing, that there is an enormous amount of anxiety and pressure that is surrounding the entire game, whether it’s to be on the field, getting down the slope, or whatever it might be. There’s pressure that’s there to perform at your best. Where did you find cannabis really helped you as an athlete?
“Early on, I don’t think it helped me as an athlete because I wouldn’t do it before serious runs and I still don’t. At my age, with my injuries and stuff, I don’t think it’s a good idea to be too high when I’m snowboarding. Later at night, afterwards, after the hot tub and you’ve settled down, then it’s fine. Drinking is also not a good mix for any athletes, especially for extreme sports athletes, because let’s face it, a lot of people who are in extreme sports tend to have fairly extreme personalities. Especially in the early days of snowboarding, everybody was showing off for everybody else, everybody had a huge ego, and drinking doesn’t help. You’re at altitude a lot of the time and you can’t get up at 6:30AM and be at your best, go jump off a 50-foot cliff with a hangover. That’s a terrible idea.
I think it was helping us forget some of the stresses and strains of how present you have to be to perform at peak level. When you’re an extreme athlete, you have to literally be in the moment and if you come out of that moment, it can have dire consequences. For us, at the end of a day and afterwards, it was just really therapeutic. It rebalanced that endocannabinoid system, which we now understand will bring balance back to your system. It can make it harder sometimes to do things, but in the case of snowboarding, everybody was just sort of leaning into it. It helps us regain our equilibrium from what could have been a pretty stressful, high adrenaline intense day out on the mountain.”
The Sports Cannabis movement continues to evolve alongside rules, regulations and adoption. What has been like to witness the growth of Cannabis as well as be an integral part of the movement?
“It’s like being involved in any civil rights movement, whether it’s for gay marriage, or black lives matter, it’s about being involved in something bigger than yourself and knowing that you’re on the right side of history. It’s a really profound way to spend our time and it makes me happy to be able to contribute in my small way to civil liberties for Americans.
I think we’ve been stripped of a lot of things, and we didn’t even know we were stripped of them. In 1937, we witnessed the greatest heist of a US resource in American history when cannabis essentially became illegal. The day that Cannabis was taken out of the pharmacopeia and hemp was removed, we lost one of the very staples that founded our independence, that created America.
To me, the study of cannabis in the United States is a study in corruption, both from the civil liberties standpoint, the racist laws that are still prevalent in the United States and from corporate greed. It starts with the special interest groups, the industrialists; Rockefeller, Herse, Ed Slinger and all those guys. You have to keep your eyes open in America, freedom isn’t free, and you have to continue to fight for your freedom. In this case, I’m really proud to have been part of a successful fight to undo 80 years of propaganda. They did the cannabis plant really, really wrong, and I’m just happy to see HER reputation restored.”
Looking forward, we are at a moment in history where individuals from all backgrounds as well as retired/active athletes can create change as well as provide a new identity for Cannabis. Today you’re tackling that conversation head on and have co-founded Love + Hemp, a CBD beauty company. Can you give us a sense at a high level of what you created with Love + Hemp ?
“Love + Hemp is a company I started with my partner Jody Banks, and our designer Luke Everhart. As I got more into CBD and learned about CBD, I wanted to make something really refined just for the face and the body. Today we have created a woman-owned company with a focus on plant botanicals from Tennessee. Tennessee is one of the best states in the country to grow hemp and was originally a part of the hemp belt along with Ohio, Wisconsin and Kentucky.
I thought that it was time to move away from the hippie organic side of my formulations and work with a refined formulator here in Tennessee. We are taking it to the next level, creating products that I couldn’t find in the marketplace. We first created the serum which are serum toner kits, a cleanser, a toner in serum and a body lotion. When I first created the system, there was nothing else like it on the market. “
We spoke earlier about the cannabis movement being felt across the globe. At the moment, the United States is still a ways behind. With an opportunity to shift the dialogue and push for equal opportunities, what has to happen to make diversity more than just a buzzword in the cannabis industry?
“There aren’t that many times in our lifetimes that a new billion-dollar industry comes along. An industry that can actually help people, it’s not like that with sugar or alcohol. It’s an opportunity for anybody of colour or women who decides that they want to be an entrepreneur and join.
I came in as a CEO which would not have been possible in another industry. Having a new industry will create jobs and equal opportunities for entrepreneurs from all backgrounds and communities. This is the green rush, it’s green energy, it’s plant-based health and it’s clean beauty. This could be a billion-dollar industry for everyone. We just need to open our eyes and look ahead into the future, instead of holding on to the scraps of the past.”
As we continue to move forward, why is it important for us today to correct the injustices from the outset, to ensure that going forward, we’re moving legally in the right direction where we can really take care of our community?
“I think that the drug conversation with who’s incarcerated and the percentage of people of colour in relationship to white people that are incarcerated really exposes deeper injustice in the whole system. It’s important to declassify it or take it out of schedule one on a federal level. It’s also important to identify that cannabis offences, nonviolent cannabis offences should not be in jail. I think that the people who pumped up oxy cotton and killed 500,000 Americans, I think those people should be in jail. Nonviolent offenders should not be in jail because once you become a felon, it changes the world’s relationship with you. If you remove them from that list you’re providing equal life opportunities, like getting a job and working. It’s really important to identify that it’s not in the same class and that these people should not be in jail and should not be seen in the same way…”
How do we change that conversation, what can we do now?
“I would educate as many Americans as humanly possible so that they would get really angry and want to do something about having the plant stolen from them.
Cannabis was stolen from them and now we have to go state by state and take the baby steps necessary to win back something that used to be ours. If you want to look at the future -you have to study the past. That has been a motivating factor for me… When I get into situations that are a bit risky, I might be scared- but then I think back on history, the fight for plant freedom and it’s just like adding fuel to the fire. It’s the gas in your tank, the drive that keeps you motivated to keep moving forward. And, it starts with decriminalization, because from there we can build opportunities for the passing of bigger laws in the future. Let’s get a new billion-dollar industry happening in America in a clean plant based way.”
In today’s world with so much changing, you’ve really done an incredible job identifying how to tackle key areas, as well as fostering the cannabis movement. For individuals listening to us today, if you could offer them one piece of advice – That’s, that’s following your steps into the cannabis industry – what would it be?
“My advice for somebody coming into the industry is to stay really focused on what their primary passion is. I came into the movement thinking I was more interested in the law and the legal side and all of that and my focus shifted to my heart. My heart is with patients, it’s with healing and being a healing force for them. So lead with your heart, look around and remember, the wonderful thing about being at the beginning of a huge new industry, is that something hasn’t been done yet. Above all, follow your heart, and if you think you’re solving a problem, you’re probably in the right place.”