A New Leaf: Stormy Simon On How Cannabis Will Save the World

Not everyone can claim they beat Amazon to the punch on anything, but Stormy Simon (yes, “Simon,” not…you know…) was selling rugs, clothing, furniture, and jewelry back when Jeff Bezos’ behemoth was still just peddling books.

“Overstock was just the epic ride – figuring out an industry that no one had treaded before,” Simon says of the company where she served as president until just about two years ago. “You had Amazon and Ebay, each doing various business models with Amazon being the world’s largest book store at the time. Overstock came in and took a piece of the pie when nothing was being done, really, online–we started selling rugs and couches, and really large furniture items that are only now being mainstreamed into e-commerce today. We started doing that in the early 2000s.”

In a volatile world where “seeking new challenges” is usually code word for “my start-up just went under,” Simon left Overstock because she saw something happening in the world of cannabis that reminded her so much of the wild west days of the early internet. Back then, Simon and others like her had to actually teach people how to shop online (the modern equivalent of “you mean to tell me those carriages don’t need horses?”) – now she sees another platform for changing people’s expectations and pushing back against long-held beliefs.

“Having experienced an e-commerce revolution, and seeing what a change a group of people making an effort can make – I saw that happening with cannabis,” says Simon. “The opportunity to educate, to get educated, and to be a part of what people are calling the end of a Prohibition. And that is true. We think of Prohibition and we think about alcohol. But cannabis is even much more than that. To raise my hand to be a part of that? Yeah.” So Simon began consulting for cannabis companies and serving on the advisory board for CannaKids, which offers cannabis oils and tinctures for pediatric and adult patients.

And then there’s the whole Reefer Madness issue to contend with. Shopping online was weird and new…but with marijuana you have to battle decades of propaganda telling people that smoking a joint is a one-way ticket to debauchery and death.

“It’s a stigma, right?” says Simon. “When the government decided to gain control for whatever bureaucratic reasons there were, and Reefer Madness comes out and really embeds in a generation that this is really horrible. It gets classified as a schedule 1 drug – that was my mom’s entire generation, she grew up with Reefer Madness. Their impression of marijuana is very different from what the reality is. [The depiction of getting high in the movie] never aligned with anyone I’ve seen get high. It was fake news. But for Gen Z, it’s going to be an easy sell – they are growing up with a different understanding of it.”

Although they may not have the “weed is evil” thing drilled into their heads, the next gen has to contend with another stigma—the cartoonish “pothead” stereotype that pervades pop culture.

“That culture exists because it was being repressed. That’s why the subculture is there,” explains Simon. “You needed to find a way to stand out and create your own movement. So I say the way to handle it is to embrace it. They’ve paved the way for some degree. There are some in the industry who say you should shy away from it. Don’t say ‘weed,’ say ‘cannabis.’ And I understand that, but the evolution is such that that subculture is very strong right now, and they are influential and they definitely have a voice worth listening to. For those people, too, it’s their medicine. They suffer from diseases, too. It doesn’t mean they’re not as smart it just means that that’s their personality and their expression.”

Now on the forefront of the “Green Rush,” Simon believes that science, data, and simple clear-eyed observation will change marijuana’s perception and, yes, save us all. Here are her four simple ways legal cannabis will improve all of our lives.

4 THINGS THAT WILL IMMEDIATELY BE BETTER ONCE MARIJUANA IS LEGALIZED NATIONWIDE

1) TAXES – “Money would go to the states instead of the cartels. I say that loosely – not every marijuana grower is a criminal. I’ve met many, and many are amazing farmers and this is really the heart of America. The original entrepreneurs were farmers. That’s what they’ve been doing, underground, delivering medicine across the United States for years. And then there’s the dark side…the cartels. So taxes would be a big one. You can put that towards schools – that’s huge for this country. Our education system is a joke compared to other countries.”

2) BANKING – “There will be solutions that will take this cash out of the market. So there aren’t cars full of cash hoping to find a place that’ll bank them. These are legitimate businesses running and they are being forced to not have the same services as other legitimate businesses. That’s still an issue. Why are we complicating it for these people?”

3) JAILS – “These kids that get caught up in a system because they were caught with a joint – we set them up for failure depending on their zip code. First of all, we shouldn’t view them as a criminal for smoking a joint, and we definitely shouldn’t treat them as one. So let’s save some money and lives there too. We need to have the tough conversations about getting their non-violent marijuana offenders out of this system and back to their lives.”

4) MEDICINE – “The fight against opiates, the fight against pharmaceuticals, and getting us to a plant-based medicine that we can grow in our own backyard and not pay $5,000 a month for. So…our health. And that’s a huge benefit.”