Fast Five Q&A: Luna Stower, Chief Impact Officer at Ispire
For many cannabis fans, the community is at the center of all they do. Whether it’s educating the masses on the rich history and myriad potential of the plant or lifting one another up during tough times, making a difference is key.
Luna Stower embodies this ethos like no other. As the chief impact officer for Ispire, a global cannabis hardware company, she travels the world advocating on behalf of the cannabis space. A former teacher, her passion for education and justice is at the core of everything she does.
Luna answered GreenState’s Fast Five questions, discussing her lifelong relationship with cannabis, her emphasis on doing what’s right, and why consumers should care about the brands they support.
GreenState: How did your journey with cannabis begin?
Luna Stower: I got involved in the cannabis industry after leaving the public school education space when I saw the intersection of advocacy with social justice in cannabis. I believe plant medicines are a human right that we’ve been robbed of, and we’re coming back to our birthright when we liberate and decriminalize bodily autonomy and sovereignty.
Once I realized education was at the core of normalizing and promoting plant medicine in a prohibitionist time and place, I was all in! And being in the Bay Area (the center of the cannabis culture movement), this was the heart/hub between the Emerald Triangle growers and the Los Angeles buyers market and everything in between. All of the early medical collectives set the standard that was copied and pasted across the country and the world, centering the narrative around healing and patient-centric business dealings.
So I started out in plant-touching oil manufacturing (with brands like Jetty Extracts and Blue River) but soon realized that a lack of reliable hardware was the crux to any vape brand growing in the space. That’s when I knew that providing quality vapes was where I could have the most impact on the cannabis brands that I loved so much.
My lifelong experience in the traditional market as a Bay Area native, combined with expertise in curriculum development and psychology, put me in a unique position to build market share and revenue for cannabis companies. As a survivor of the drug war who watched my community displaced and abused by law enforcement over a plant, I was activated to combat this unjust conspiracy against medical sovereignty and autonomy… and love working with other renegades and revolutionaries who know that you cannot outlaw nature!
By showing up as an advocate at city council meetings and supporting the early Equity Program policy work, I became recognized as an activist and thought leader in the space, not just a businessperson. I helped promote and institute the Shelter Project, which was a compassion program donating free products to cancer patients through Oakland-based licensed oil brand Jetty Extracts.
I founded my own marketing consulting firm and was asked to join the Ispire team as a sales leader in 2020. Since then, I have been named by the Cannabis Chamber of Commerce as Cannabis Culture Advocate of the Year in 2021.
Embodying the “Chief Impact Officer” role is a dream, and I am grateful that Ispire, a vape hardware company, values advocacy as a central part of the business. This speaks volumes about my team and their value system and supportive women’s leadership and empowerment.
Being acknowledged by several cannabis chambers of commerce as well as many people’s choice awards, as being an outstanding and inspiring activist, has been a highlight of my career. Working with women’s organizations and campaigns supporting people of color and marginalized folks in the space has brought so much meaning and satisfaction to my work.
I will never forget the day that a team of us helped pass the law decriminalizing the use of Entheogenic plants in the city of Oakland; watching City Hall erupt in such joy, surrounded by the wonderful people that I’ve met — who are gatekeepers for this industry and hold a very high standard — has helped to keep me motivated, and tells me I am on the right path.
GS: What is your favorite way to consume?
LS: Personally, I am big into vaping and dabbing, as I like rosin specifically. I do use bongs and flower, specifically to soothe nausea or anxiety, and I enjoy sharing joints in social settings. Tinctures are a daily supplement to my smoothies, and topicals are always flowing in my household (sometimes patches and suppositories/bath oils)!
GS: Your career started in education – now you travel the world educating people about the plant. How do you apply your past work to what you do today?
LS: I have a Master’s in education and was a public school teacher for a decade, so education is close to my heart. I know how much this plant has helped me as a patient and has saved so many other people’s lives and states of mind that I feel it is my imperative duty to spread the good word about the healing properties of this plant. Most of the propaganda surrounding this plant is racist and has very nefarious roots; the entire drug war is a farce, and without education, removing the stigma and normalizing it will not be possible.
Most of my time these days is spent educating consumers and B2B audiences about the beauties and pitfalls of the cannabis industry, how to avoid common errors that have been made in the past, and how to move forward in a positive way that uplifts all people without leaving anyone behind.
The events I speak at are business networking and thought leadership think tanks to share best practices and downfalls to help prevent other people entering the industry from making the same mistakes as we have. Many of these feel like family reunions to me, as a lot of people in this space have been advocating here for a long time, so a lot of it is a social and community aspect that we nourish in order to create a safe and healthy working environment for all.
My favorite thing about the panels is talking to folks afterward who tell me that I have inspired them in my words or just being a woman in the space, acting as a role model for other people who want to see themselves in a position of power and respect in the cannabis industry.
I focus a lot on the war on drugs and women in the industry because those are two issues not only close to my heart but that are key to the success of the overall industry. I find myself sitting on panels at conferences, as a judge for the Emerald Cup, on podcasts and interviews, IG Lives, traveling to international and nationwide networking events, and working on internal campaigns to ensure that my company Ispire stays aligned with our goals to improve life experiences for all cannabis users and beyond. I have enrolled us as members of the National Cannabis Industry Association and the Origins Council, which preserves legacy cannabis operators from the pre-Prop 64 era of Prop 215.
As a descendant of the survivors of the Holocaust during World War II, I was always instructed as a child to speak up because silence is violence, and injustice to one is injustice to all. I live by that rule and everything that I do, and growing up in the Bay Area, I have seen the decimation of my community, especially those of color and in marginalized groups, by the racist and unfair drug war.
Prohibition harms us in every way, from preventing innovation and communication to limiting the types of education that help encourage safe access and conscious consumption methods. Many people in this space are so focused on making money and surviving that they forget that this entire industry was built by activists and advocates for AIDS patients and chronically ill people. Many of them survived based on the compassionate donations of brands, which is unfortunate since the brands are one of the segments making the least amount of revenue in the space based on this over-taxation and over-regulation.
From working with veterans and advocating for compassionate donations to charity groups to advocating for reparations and equity for folks of color and organizations hardest hit by the war on drugs, cannabis culture is one of conserving, respecting, honoring, and preserving the communities and cultures that have contributed to everything we love about this plant.
Without a focus on advocacy in this space, it runs the risk of becoming just like every other consumer packaged goods industry ruled by corporate greed and capitalistic gains. A critical lens when approaching cannabis is not only important but vital to the success and respect of any brand entering or operating in the space. Without a historical lens, we will be myopic in our approach and not learn from the wrongs of the past to create a better industry in the future.
We often underestimate the economic impact that this had on many of these rural towns when those who used to visit — to participate in trimming, brokering, and transporting the product down to other parts of California — no longer visit these areas that have essentially become ghost towns with boarded up businesses.
Those who are left behind are vulnerable populations — veterans, patients, and small rural growers — who were zoned out of their farms, are unable to sustain themselves, or have lost all hope in continuing their craft in the legal market. Many states got very greedy and extractive, wanting to take more from cannabis than it was producing and leaving the legacy operators and multi-generational growers out of the conversation and the industry altogether.
GS: Why should consumers care about the vape hardware they buy?
LS: Safety, flavor-saving tech, airflow, and ease of use are all key to an enjoyable vaping experience! es are properly allocated and supporting them through promotion and presence all the way through.
Trusted, reliable, and top-performing, the ideal vape product should offer the best taste in the industry. Custom calibration helps ensure the product is heated exactly how it should be for optimal taste and effect. Ispire’s products, for example, work with oils of various viscosities, and we work with our clients as strategic partners to ensure their experience is seamless, allowing customers to get more consistent products and not see their favorite brands fall off shelves.
Ispire’s patented Ducore® technology has two heating cores that deliver even heating and the best flavor, minimizing clogging and leaking, which is a huge headache and cost for consumers. Adjustable Airflow Control is perfect for everyone from novice to expert consumers and patients, providing far more airflow than any other cartridge.
Consumers should care about the story behind their hardware – does the brand give back? From giving backpacks and hygiene kits to our unhoused neighbor in Los Angeles to donating to GoFundMe campaigns that are initiated by our friends in the cannabis industry who are going through a hard time, Ispire is always there to lend a helping hand. We are donors to “The Pollinator Project” to restore and conserve bee habitats, as well as donors to the social impact center non-profit. We work with Helmand Valley Growers Company to give back to the veteran community. We always donate product and time to any cause that is in need.
As the chief impact officer, my role is to identify these opportunities, ensure that the resources are properly allocated, and support them through promotion and presence all the way through.
Consumers should also understand that many brands experience debilitating obstacles — such as costly last-minute changes in regulations around labeling and testing, expensive and limited licensing, market overproduction and a “race to the bottom” on prices, issues with distributors honoring contracts or moving product pre-expiration — and that the biggest issue facing brands and the cannabis industry as a whole is the over-regulation, over taxation, and over control of something that was already a thriving, economically rich industry.
I’d like to see people who support this plant speak up, write to their representatives, be active on their social media, and have hard conversations with their family and friends in order to push the agenda of normalization forward. I have noticed through my years of lobbying and activism at the local, state, and federal levels that often, it is just business owners who are advocating for the push forward of this industry.
When California and other legal states voted on “legalization,” the average voter thought this meant decriminalization — taking away crimes against people using, gifting, gathering, growing, or possessing the plant. This over-simplified law actually instituted mass government commercialization (e.g., taxation, control, and regulation) that has given preference to well-funded stakeholders and operating in grossly mismanaged, inefficient, and overly bureaucratic ways that disenfranchise and disincentivize the average operator.
Outsiders often think it is a highly lucrative space without knowledge of the cost and nearly insurmountable obstacles most operators face every day just to exist. Between a lack of legal protection, a lack of the 280E tax write-off, and limits on advertising and sales, we are in a constant uphill battle to close every quarter. This type of ignorance, that everyone in this industry is making money, actually harms the space.
We’ve seen investor interest dry up from the influx of ridiculous over-valuations, foreign consolidation, irresponsible MSOs, and individual bad actors that have soured the public’s appetite for supporting the growth of the industry. The negative repercussions from harmful forms of nepotism, widespread corruption, and unchecked corporate greed have long-lasting, damaging effects on the attitudes and behaviors of decision-makers.
What’s sad is that we are usually advocating for the rights of the patient and the consumer to have affordable, safe, and high-quality medicine. Unfortunately, the people in power do not want to hear this coming from business owners, as they doubt the agenda behind the advocacy. If more patients and consumers stepped up and used their voices, we wouldn’t have to work so hard to have legalization rollout.
Another thing to remember was that during COVID, cannabis workers were considered “essential” — validating the importance of our work — and proving how much U.S. citizens want legal, safe, and decriminalized psychoactive substances. Over-taxation in legal retail markets also drives consumers back underground to the traditional market to avoid the exorbitant cost of going the legal route.
GS: How do you maintain such a positive, inspiring attitude, even in tough times?
LS: Strength, solidarity, and support are key to thriving in this space. Aligning myself with heart-based causes and a human rights-based purpose makes the hard times a lot easier to get through. Without positive mental health, it is very hard to succeed and last for very long in an industry that has constant abuses to the psyche and the emotions. When you are fighting for something as big as a medical rights issue, it can take a lot of your time, energy, and spirit. In order to keep that alive, you have to take care of yourself.
Becoming a C-level executive at a publicly traded cannabis company (ISPR:NASDAQ) has been a highlight of my career; knowing a woman could rise through the ranks… And in such a saturated and competitive space helps keep me positive about the future.
Being a part of cannabis culture helps uplift my spirit — as it is a representation of plant medicine and a way of life. This includes the Emerald Triangle, regenerative craft agriculture, and the small farmers who built the genetics and the methods that we currently use and benefit from today. Cannabis culture means being a warm-hearted rebel with a cause, focusing on healing plants above pills, a love for smoking/vaping, and a nod to radical counterculture.
My goal is always to nurture and mentor women and men both in the space to find ways to uphold and uplift women’s wisdom in every sector of the space. Getting connected with other women, coalition building, setting healthy boundaries, and maintaining a solid work/life balance so the inevitable overwhelm doesn’t do you in. I enjoy this type of balancing through meditation, long walks and hikes with my dogs, and quality time with my family.
Relying on other women and creating women-based support groups and business networking opportunities is another way to stay focused on who is here to help us and the people who will be there in the long run instead of just a transactional way. Advocating for women helps keep me motivated and is very important to me, as women are underrepresented in most industries, and even more so in the cannabis space, where we are usually not in decision-making or ownership positions.
There are a lot of misogynistic patriarchal foundations to business and the cannabis industry, and navigating the pitfalls of that is exhausting. This means resisting the norms, fighting with kindness and love for what’s right, remaining ethical, and true to what we believe in. Women are especially collaborative multi-taskers, and I find we hold space in ways that our male colleagues are not always keen on, and that is a daily struggle we persist through. Our ideas are often ignored, belittled, stolen, and regurgitated through the voices of male colleagues for legitimacy, or we are shunned as being “b*tchy or aggressive” when our male counterparts are “assertive and bold.”
We overcome them by finding allies who see our worth and respect us, find roles that we are empowered in to make real change, and stay grounded to the bigger picture “why” so the petty drama doesn’t take us down or derail us from our righteous cause and work.
Being a Bay Area native, I have been surrounded by the plant since the early Prop 215 days and have been dealing with it and consuming it since middle school; it helped fund my education and has allowed me a lot of upward mobility in my life. Unfortunately, due to the economic situation here, most businesses in the Bay Area are struggling. It is really sad to see all of the activists who made this medical space into a formal industry left behind as big money and big pharma get into the game, pushing the small guys out and consolidating all of the legacy brands that brought everyone into the space to begin with.
Luna Stower is the Chief Impact Officer at Ispire Vape Technology based in Los Angeles, CA. With over a decade in Cannabiz, she was a key member of CA legacy brands like Jetty Extracts and was named “Cannabis Culture Advocate of the Year” in 2021 by the Cannabis Chamber of Commerce. With a Master’s degree from the University of San Francisco & BA in Social Justice from UC Santa Cruz, her impact on drug policy has been instrumental to local decriminalization measures & first-of-its-kind Social Equity initiatives. Follow on IG: @luna_stower @getispire @healers.not.dealers
The answers given by Q&A subjects do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GreenState. The subject is solely responsible for the views stated in this piece.