Welcome to the latest installment of To Be Blunt, the Question & Answer series that aims to put the spotlight on the people, places, brands and companies that make the Arizona cannabis community unique. Today's feature is on Amethyst Kinney, CEO of AZ Cannafriends and Owner of Blue Dream Entertainment.
The first thing you notice after you walk into an AZ Cannafriends event, right after the pungent smell, is a ball of energy darting around, making sure vendors and attendees needs are met.
That ball of energy and excitement is Amethyst Kinney.
Kinney can be found at nearly any event involving cannabis between Tucson and Phoenix — where the monthly AZ Cannafriends events are held — and her events are integral in expanding the reach of brands (both local and regional/national) into the budding Arizona market.
To Be Blunt sat down with Kinney to ask about how she uses cannabis, when and how she got into the industry and what the future is for Cannafriends and her newest venture: Blue Dream Entertainment.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To hear the full interview, listen to the Here Weed Go! podcast, where the conversation will air in February.
To Be Blunt: We like to start these conversations with the same question: When was your first experience with cannabis? How was it?
Amethyst Kinney: I have a two part answer to this.
The first time that I actually tried cannabis was in high school and for my first time, it was off of a three foot bong (laughter ensues). So I was extremely high. I was like, yeah, this is not for me, at all.
But later on in life, in August of 2010, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I spent two-to-three years in bed bedridden with pill bottles next to the side of my bed.
One day my ex-husband was like, just try (cannabis) it again. And I was like, OK, I'll try anything.
All of a sudden I was like, I think I can get out of bed! And so I was just using it whenever I needed to.
With his (ex-husband's) help, I started using cannabis every single day. And now, I am obviously out of bed and cannabis is the reason that I can do all the things that I do in the cannabis industry, with my multiple sclerosis.
It's just amazing that I can actually work in the industry for the plant that gave me my life back.
TBB: That's extremely powerful. So, with a new lease on life thanks to cannabis, what was your journey into the industry like? What were you doing before you got invovled?
AK: Right before the pandemic, I was working in the hospitality industry. And the year before, I had just started my own mobile bartending service. And so the pandemic hit and I was like, uh oh, what am I gonna do?
So I was at home for about a month and I was like, yeah, I can't do this, I'm not the stay-home person.
It was my friend Gary Stow, who currently works for Lush (Edibles) — at the time he was working for OGeez! — and on Facebook, he had posted, we're looking for someone for this company that I work for in packaging.
I was like, dude, please, let me interview.
And he was like, you know it's just packaging?
And I was like, I don't care, I need to do something, I need to get out of the house! I don't even care how much it pays, just let me get out of the house, please!
I had an interview, and she was very hesitant at first because she was like, you know, I think you're overqualified. You have a master's degree.
And I was like, that's OK, just let me in, I'll show you what I can do.
She was like, the pay is... I was like, that's OK! Just let me in. I promise I'll work as hard as these young kids.
She's like, I'll give you a chance. I think it was about three and a half weeks into packaging, they were like, OK, what do you wanna do?
I was like, thank you! I wanna work in the office. So I started off in the office and built that position.
Well, we started growing as a company so quickly that I moved into HR and accounting and I did that for a little while.
Seven months later, me and another lady that worked at the office, we got everything cleaned up and they were like, let's have a meeting. I was like, oh man, where am I going now?
And so I moved into marketing and that was so much fun. I helped with sales and then I decided to branch out a little bit.
I also want to thank OGeez! director of operations, Aron Ruben, who helped me tremendously in getting my start in the industry and taught me a lot.
TBB: So how did you get invovlved with AZ Cannafriends?
AK: Well, then I was like, you know, I kind of want to do something on my own. I was already helping my friend as a brand ambassador for her company.
She had called me one day and she goes, remember when I told you that you could take over (AZ Cannafriends) one day? Well today's that day. And I was like, wait, what?
I was like, not a problem. So I took it over and I'm still doing the brand ambassador program. I have a couple of great brands right now and started Blue Dream Entertainment to house it all under.
That's how I got my start. And this last year has just been amazing. Cannafriends friends has grown. I mean, just Tucson, when we first started in December of 2021, we had eight vendors and like 20 people.
And last month we had 28 vendors and 200 people. So it is actually really growing and it's taken off.
TBB: For those who haven't been to an AZ Cannafriends event, describe what the experience is like.
AK: First you'll be greeted at the front door at our check-in, so you'll probably get a hug from me whether you know me or not.
We have vendors set up and you can come and go as you please. You can talk to each vendor at their table and they will tell you what their product is about, where you can get their product, etc.
About 90% of the time those vendors have samples so that you can actually sample your product while you're there, because we are cannabis friendly.
A lot of the brands will actually launch their new products at Cannafriends, so sometimes you'll see something before anybody else does.
We have food and music, so you'll see me dancing for sure and each event we do a presentation from all the brand, especially the "Spotlight Sponsor."
We'll also let you know if anybody's hiring.
I think though that one of the most fun things that we do is the raffle. Everybody that comes gets a raffle ticket and every vendor raffles off something.
Plus, something that we've been doing recently is the VIP bags. Every event we have 10 VIP bags that we raffle off and all of the vendors put special swag and samples in those as well. Those have become a high commodity.
TBB: So Cannafriends is flourishing! Talk a little then about Blue Dream Entertainment, what is it?
AK: I knew that I needed an LLC for everything that I wanted to do. I sat down with my ex-husband and my son and I was like, okay, we need a name. I was like, I got to have a name.
We went through a lot of things, like Green Goddess and you know all kinds of different things.
I started thinking about it and I was like, what about a strain? My favorite strain at the time, besides White Widow, which actually would've been cool now that I'm thinking about it, was Blue Dream. I was like, Blue Dream Entertainment, I love it.
It oversees the Canna-Drag events, Arizona Cannafriends, the Thank You Party industry events that I throw sporadically and any new events that will be thrown this year that I cannot reveal yet, but they're going to be great.
Then there is my brand ambassador program that I have for brands that want to have the brand ambassadors at the on-site events and the dispensaries, but don't want to deal with that weight on their shoulders. They just hire me and I take care of it for them.
TBB: So what does the future hold for you, AZ Cannafriends and Blue Dream Entertainment?
AK: In 2023 you're gonna see a lot of new brands. I spent a lot of time sending out a lot of emails over the past couple weeks and I think it's such a great opportunity for these brands that normally don't get the recognition that are smaller, sort of mom-and-pop.
TBB: Will there still be events in both Tucson and Phoenix?
AK: Yes, absolutely. Phoenix is typically the second Wednesday of every month, and Tucson is the third Thursday of every month.
I'm going to have our calendar posted on our Instagram page. Our Instagram page is @azcannafriends. That way everybody will know ahead of time so that way people will be able to see and mark on their calendars for the rest of the year if they need.
AZ Cannafriends Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/azcannafriends/