We dared to be ladies enjoying cannabis: An exclusive interview with Deidra Bagdasarian, CEO of the Ganja Goddess Getaway and co-founder of Bliss Edibles & Extracts
By Meg Ellis
Sep 20, 2018
Deidra Bagdasarian, known affectionately and professionally as “Miss Bliss,” is the founder and CEO of Ganja Goddess Getaway, a private, members-only social club for like-minded women into cannabis and creating a sense of community. Co-founded with Sailene Ossman in 2016, the getaway seeks to connect women to each other, themselves, and the cannabis plant.
In 2009, Bagdasarian co-founded the High Times award-winning Bliss Edibles & Extracts with the goal of raising the standards of edibles to something more. Having taught edibles courses at Oaksterdam University, her Bliss Vanilla-Mint Chocolate Cupcakes, have been called too beautiful to eat.
Bagdasarian is a transformational figure in the cannabis sector; a high-profile female CEO and entrepreneur in an industry that, according to recent data, is hemorrhaging women executives. Statistics show that between 2015 and 2017 the number of women executives in the industry fell from 36 percent to 27 percent. We spoke with Bagdasarian about the cannabis industry to find out more about the role of women leaders, the future of cannabis legalization, and the best-damn edible cupcakes in the world.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became involved in the cannabis industry.
My husband, back when we were dating, he was the person that introduced me to cannabis as medicine. California, during this time, was a prohibition state. I was actually Googling how to get a hold of cannabis, and I found NORML, and the effort to legalize cannabis. I didn’t know anything about the legalization movement and finding NORML changed the course of my life forever. This introduced us to Edibles, and so we, my husband and I, started making edibles.
I have always been a baker, the women in my family are bakers. After making edibles for a few years in California, we learned how to make extracts, and it was just a new way to do cannabis. In 2009 in California, we started Bliss Edibles. We added “Extracts” in 2013. We always had this passion for cannabis because we were using it for ourselves, but when we started sharing the medicine with other people, it just made me happy.
It lead me to create Ganja Goddess, my heart project. I had just had a daughter, and I felt that I had a responsibility that I previously hadn’t felt with my son. There was a different awareness. There is something about cannabis that gave me a sense of, well, motivation. A motivation to become my best self. I had this new baby, and I had a new business. At the time, I wasn’t sure I knew how I knew to be my best self for her. The Ganja Goddess Getaway was part of my desire to be a new mom to a daughter. In doing retreats, I’ve learned more about what it is to be a woman, a sister, a friend, and a mother.
That’s so wonderful that you’ve found your passion project. It sounds like Bliss Edibles paved the way for Ganja Goddess nicely. Which, by the way, everything on the Bliss Edibles & Extracts Website looks like something right off of “The Great British Baking Show”! It just looks too pretty to eat! What inspired you to create such beautifully crafted edibles?
[Bliss Edibles & Extracts] is our bread and butter. It’s a non-profitable business; I like to joke because we invest so much time in it. It’s exciting to be a part of something, even though it’s still a work in progress. It’s constantly evolving; it’s where all of my efforts are. To me, edibles are a more efficient way to consume cannabis, especially if you’re using it as a mood enhancer. I enjoy edibles; I enjoy the feeling that I get from edibles. It’s a very different feeling than the one that you get from smoking and getting high; it is just a very different feeling. I can eat a low-dose of cannabis in edibles as well as enjoy the comfort food.
In the past, I had used pharmaceutical medicines as an antidepressant, which was not a great experience. Finding cannabis was a life-changing experience. I was still getting my medicines, but I was feeling better. Then I started carrying my edibles around with me, giving them to friends. My friends said that we had to sell it, the edibles I mean, so then I just wanted to start impressing people! I started thinking about things like, how does cannabis pair with food? All of my creative juices came into full force.
How did you come up with the recipes? I mean these are award-winning cupcakes.
I’ve been collecting recipes since I was nine years old. I pulled from my lifetime collection of recipes, it was literally a huge binder, and I pulled out my favorites, and they’ve really taken on a life of their own. I grew up around baking, and it’s something I’ve always been willing to try and practice. Adding cannabis and seeing what works. Comfort foods make you feel better. Edibles are eaten by patients; whether they ’re trying to make tomorrow more healthy, whatever they’re using it for, I want it to taste as good as it makes you feel. Cannabis is so positive, so edibles need to step up to the plant, in my opinion.
[The award] was fun! In 2010, it was very special. It was the first time that High Times came to the U.S. To have it in San Francisco, it felt like we were a part of the future. This was the most unexpected honor and accomplishment of my life. To win more awards, recognition, and honors was so unexpected. We chose San Francisco because of its the vivisection of food and weed, the most wonderful food and weed cultures really come together in California.
And that was around the same time that you taught at Oaksterdam. Do you think that legalizing cannabis will help sustain cannabis-based educational institutions like Oaksterdam?
It’s such a shame that it doesn’t exist the way it did in the past. It was huge! It was so big! It was an exciting part of things were happening and evolving back in 2010 in Oakland before they were raided in 2014. It was awesome! There were blocks of Oakland where you could be in and be smoking, and go from place to place and see smoking communities, between the student center, Bull Dog Cafe. All of these places where you could study cannabis, see [the cannabis] community, and feel like you were coming out of the green closet and that you were normalizing cannabis. It felt safe and exciting and fun.
Oaksterdam’s heart was in the right place; it was just really early. The continuation of their momentum has been tough with all of the rules and regulations.
Once the laws have settled with recreational use, I think [it will change]. We haven’t ironed it all out; we’re still figuring [cannabis regulations] out. Over the next year, it should settle some, and then there will be opportunities for market sectors. In the meantime, there are lots of groups doing online lessons, conferences, and there’s a University in Michigan that has the first cannabis degree.
I hope legalization will help speed the process along. The more education people have about cannabis, the faster it can be normalized.
Let’s switch gears to your organization, the Ganja Goddess Getaway. It sounds incredibly fascinating. What was your motivation behind it all?
I reached out to the people I knew in cannabis and told them that I was thinking of doing this, creating Ganja Goddess. They all said, “Oh my gosh, do it!” So I did.
My personal assistant helped me find a place to host the events, and I just kept inviting women. The only place that we could really hold these events were fairgrounds, which, fairgrounds are not conducive to the types of gatherings we wanted to hold. So that’s when we got the idea to become a private social club where people had to hold memberships in order to come. Half of the women were not even ticket holders for the first event! I was insistent that I would fill the events up and make it a thing. And I did!
After the first event, the second event was really big. We DARED to be ladies just enjoying cannabis without any men present, and we actually got a lot of press because of it. We’re working on revamping on being a private social club; we are an ever-evolving concept. We’ll call ourselves whatever we need to. We’re just women in the woods, enjoying cannabis.
Can you tell us a bit about what a Ganja Goddess Getaway retreat looks like?
It looks awesome. It’s a getaway, nothing is required of participants. The getaways are about focusing on you. There’s always water wherever we hold the events: a river, pool, hot tub, whatever. There’s an open cannabis bar (edibles, smoke, etc.), and there’s food available. We have a main stage where we do events and workshops on different subjects: we have puff and paint, yoga, body positivity, belly dancing, sexuality, tarot, horoscopes, we’ve done all sorts of workshops. It goes on all day, so you can participate in whatever you would like.
Or you can take a nap! And of course, we go all out on the food. We have cannabis cotton candy, chocolate fountains, just some ways to feel indulged. There are fireside chats, lots of food and laughs, and cannabis, every time! (Participants) can consume as much (cannabis) as they want without shame or guilt.
We’ve been socializing and recreating with alcohol for centuries. We took cannabis out of the equation in the last 100 years. We never talk about how during the speakeasy era there were hashish parlors, too! There were more hashish clubs than speakeasies, and the police spent less time there than they did breaking up the alcohol parlors. There was a time when we smoked openly without shame. To be in a place that is public, and you can have women with whom you identify, like other moms, people who look like you, and maybe even some conservative women too! It’s really a special place, which creates a safe environment.
Why do you feel that it’s important to have a female-only cannabis club?
A few years ago, there were no spaces for women in cannabis. It’s new to have these spaces. It was really a boy’s club. I’m not speaking to opportunities for business advancement, but to actually have a space to smoke. I felt like all of the events were geared towards men, because men in their mid-twenties had been the primary focus for the industry. So I don’t blame them at all for gearing the events towards men. But I knew I wasn’t the only girl getting high! I wanted a place where we could get together.
Now it’s become important because I feel like, not only do women in cannabis not have a place to get together but just women, in general, need a place to get together. It’s not as common to have women clubs as men and their clubs. I mean, if you think about it in sports terms, Title IX really only happened a few years ago. It’s very new to have spaces just for women, not as new as it has been to have spaces for just men. It, the social space, has become more important for the people involved, which is really special.
Alright, the boy’s club. Since we touched on this a bit, and because you are an Industry Leader and have been in the cannabis-game since 2009, do you feel like it is a “boys” club? Or has it grown?
Cannabis is rife with opportunity because it’s happening, it’s emerging, there’s no structure in place. There is no glass ceiling because there is no ceiling. There’s no foundation! We’re still building the cannabis industry. There are tons of opportunities for women, but women are underrepresented everywhere. Thinking on the RBG train of thought [Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, RBG for her friends and groupies], where she was asked: “You won’t be happy until half of the Supreme Court bench is female, will you?” “No,” she replied, “I won’t be happy until the whole Supreme Court is made up of women!”
We have to get to a place where it’s all women, we may be more represented in this industry, but we’re still underrepresented everywhere. Women are not feeling as free to take the same roles, risks, and responsibilities, so it’s exciting times to be involved with women rising and coming into their own sense of purpose, power. We can be part of making women’s lives better.
What sort of opportunities do you see for women in the cannabis industry?
It’s wide open, no one can or should be telling you otherwise. Whatever it is that calls to you, be sure to do your homework. Learn everything about it. Become the subject matter expert as well as being the expert of that particular thing. For example, if you want to be CEO of an edibles business, it’s not like I’m speaking from personal experience or anything with that particular example, but you need to know about edibles and about being a CEO. Be obsessed with living your dream. If you can live it and dream it and breathe it, then you can do it. The project is being written, get your pen and write yourself in!
Anytime people ask me this; I want them to know that they can do it! I super-believe in their dreams. I will always and forever be the optimist who believes that dreams do come true. I believe in you, go for it!