On a Mission with the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance

By Tyler Blue

Diana Gamzon might as well wear a cape because she is a superhero to the local cannabis industry. Instead she wears slightly less conspicuous - yet uber stylish - attire as she goes about her perpetual mission to advance the cause of legal cannabis along with those who cultivate and consume it. Gamzon is the co-founder of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance and has served as its executive director since its inception in the fall of 2016. Everyone including the backyard grower, commercial farmer, dispensary and those who enjoy the luxury of purchasing legal cannabis, owes her and the Alliance a debt of gratitude for their ongoing work.

The Alliance was born out of the effort to oppose Measure W, which threatened to ban all outdoor growing and commercial cannabis activity. Gamzon worked on coordinating a grassroots effort with many other advocates to lobby against the ban. “We successfully overcame that ban,” Gamzon proudly recalls. “Out of those efforts we formed the alliance so we could have an organized and professional presence, build relationships and organize the community around the legal industry.”

The Alliance is extremely proactive, having established an array of programs to benefit over 200 members on specialized subjects to navigate the industry’s many challenges. Advocacy and policy development is handled under their government affairs program. This involves working on policy in Nevada County and coordinating statewide lobbying efforts. An education initiative is a key part of the Alliance’s mission. This is headed by Maggie Philipsborn - Director of Education and Membership. The key component of this is the Get Legit Program. It includes permitting and compliance webinars, business skill training workshops and monthly cannabis and regenerative farming courses. Many of these are free and open to the public. There is even a “buddy program” which matches farmers who have already received their permit with those that haven’t. The fact that this complex process would warrant its own support groups speaks to the Alliance’s dedication to empower people while navigating the permitting gauntlet.

Another vital part of the Alliance’s mission is connection. They host a lot of networking events which offer opportunities for members to connect. Just this month they launched a program called Shade Breaks - Farmer to Farmer. This came in response to awareness around mental health. “Benny was a big part of it,” Gamzon explains (referring to Elevation’s dearly departed former employee, Benny Kennedy). “There was also another death of a man named Eli who was connected to the Alliance. There is a lot of uncertainty these days and we know that mental health and suicide is an issue in traditional farming.” They are hopeful that providing an opportunity for farmers to come together and share their feelings will help remind them that they have a supportive community they can lean on.

Elevation and the Alliance are strong partners in many different arenas of each of our endeavors. One of them which has recently come more to the forefront is the Compassion Program. This brings together farmers, production entities, testing labs and the channel of distribution (i.e. Elevation 2477). Free cannabis products donated by local companies are provided to patients with medical recommendations. In an effort to expand the reach of the program, the Alliance is working to build relationships with non-profits in the community that can benefit from the medicine.

In looking at the bigger picture as to why the mission of the Alliance is so vital, Gamzon pinpoints, “In areas where there is legacy cannabis production - a longtime history of small farmers - we must band together and create a niche for ourselves in the marketplace. The alliance was founded on environmental sustainability and craft farming and community values.

The competition around large scale massive growers is real and will force us to be more creative.” We can continue to feel confident that if anyone can be both progressive and practical when it comes to addressing all the issues that affect our industry, it’s Gamzon and her team.

Follow the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance on Facebook and Instagram and sign up for the newsletter. No matter what your current involvement is in the wide world of cannabis, those are the best ways to start being active. www.nccannabisalliance.org