by Kayla Johnson
Part of what makes the cannabis industry and those who work within it unique is the passion that drives just about everyone involved. While there are always those who are out to make a quick buck, a vast majority of people who work with cannabis are there because they believe in cannabis and the change that it can bring with it. Maybe it’s made a positive change in their own life, maybe it’s helped someone they loved, or maybe the dispensary that first opened down the street just helped to make a positive impact on a hard-hit part of the community that others had forgotten.
Most people in the industry have a story of why they first got involved, and Sabrina Farias, lead chemical analyst at Scissortail Laboratories in Oklahoma City, is no different. A born-and-raised native of Stockton California, Farias moved to Oklahoma with her family in the late 2000s when the market in California was struggling severely, and said it was simply in search of a better future.
“In California at the time, the economy was not the best. Everyone was losing their homes, and they were in extreme debt. My father, Carlos, took a leap of faith and moved us to Oklahoma, in hopes of improving the life my brother and I had. It worked!”
Like many who have spent any long period of time in California, Farias was somewhat familiar with cannabis growing up, even more so once her grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Seeing how she benefited from the plant after treatments was a key moment for Farias, because she began to question what she’d heard from friends and family.
“My uncle Jerry, who now runs his own legal cannabis farm in California called Rocky Farm, would have to find my grandmother cannabis in secret, just to help her get through the aftermath of the chemotherapy treatments. I remember being eleven years old at the time, and feeling angry and confused; how could something that helped my grandmother get from one day to the next be illegal, and frowned upon by friends and family? That made no sense to me.”
Witnessing firsthand how cannabis helped her grandmother when she needed it most played a big role in Farias becoming a staunch advocate for cannabis and the medicinal properties it can provide. When it came time to continue her education, Farias turned her attention to science and chemistry, with big goals in mind that ended up changing for the better.
“I have an Associates Degree of Science in Chemistry and Physics from Northern Oklahoma College, and a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry from Oklahoma State University. While I had intended on continuing through graduate school, after a year of it, I decided another four-year adventure at school was not for me, and it turns out that I was right! I’m on a much bigger adventure now.”
It was during her time at college that cannabis first impacted her own life directly, in a big way. Like so many, Farias found that anxiety was a constant battle once she was in school, and it was especially hard to manage because it was something that had been simply brushed off before.
“Growing up in a Latino family, anxiety did not exist. It was masked as being dramatic, or weak. I honestly had no idea what anxiety really was or if it was even real until I experienced it myself in college. I was terrified, and I had no idea why I couldn’t snap out of this anxious feeling I had.”
While her doctor provided her with a prescription to help alleviate the symptoms, Farias wasn’t convinced the solution was to just take a pill and try to forget about it.
“The most common fix to anxiety is in the form of a pill. I hated the idea of taking pills. I’ve never had to take medication on a daily basis other than the usual daily vitamin. I knew there had to be another way to fix this. Then I found cannabis.”
For Farias, that was the moment that everything really began to change for her, even though she was resistant to it in the beginning due to the old stigmas. That kind of internal battle is something many patients have dealt with on their own, and just like so many others, once she decided to actually give it a true try, she found the key to what she had needed all that time for her anxiety.
“I fought the idea for a while. I knew this was really taboo for most of my family, but cannabis saved me. No more pills, and no more anxiety. It was a miracle given to me by something natural, a plant. Once again, I got angry; how could something that had helped both me and my grandmother be federally illegal?”
Now, the head analyst for Scissortail Labs since July 2019, Farias has found her passion in life, ensuring that Oklahoma cannabis and cannabis products are free from contaminations and toxins, and providing businesses and patients alike with potency and terpene information. Beyond her daily work to keep medicine clean for her fellow patients, another aspect of her position brings serious satisfaction for Farias: creating a new standard for cannabis businesses and employees.
“As a woman in this industry, I do recognize that not only in Oklahoma but across the U.S., there is a visual standard associated with this industry, a stigma: the male grower, the male scientist, the male business owner, and the male influencer. I would love to be part of a new standard.”
That’s something that Farias, along with Scissortail Labs, has already been doing; of the seven employees at Scissortail, six of them are women, and that’s something that the staff takes great pride in.
“We have six intelligent and hardworking women. Six women in STEM, six women making a difference in Oklahoma. The more I get involved and the more I network, the more I realize that there are strong and powerful women all over this state! I believe soon, we will all be a part of a new standard and new realization: that the face of this industry is not just that of a man, but also of a woman. There are many faces to leadership, let ours be one of them.”
The power of networking with other women is something Farias encouraged all women to take advantage of, not only to help themselves succeed but to ensure the success of others as well.
“Networking, holding events and building those important relationships with not only businesses but consumers and patients as well, those are important things to remember. Women tend to research and really look into what they’re consuming. Let us know who you are, and what you stand for. This is a very competitive market, and everyone is trying to make it to the top, but it’s important to remember that nobody climbs the ladder to success alone. Your support system helps keep you stable and motivates you to keep climbing. We are all-powerful women, but we are even more powerful when united together.”
That empowered outlook is one Farias also carries into her opinion on the importance of women succeeding in cannabis; it’s not so much a question of why, but of why not?
“I feel as if we should no longer ask ourselves if we should be a part of this industry, and start asking why we aren’t? We have the opportunity to make a difference in any industry, and we are worthy of those opportunities. Women make up the majority of cannabis sales. We control around 30 trillion in annual spending alone. We’re more than ad models, we have the influencing power to see this industry grow to its fullest potential.”