Vice President of Federal Policies, Cannabis Trade Federation
Cannabis industry’s face in Washington
Key previous position: Government relations, Reynolds American tobacco
Education: Jamestown College
Notable fact: Member of American Council of Young Political Leaders
Cassie Folk has made a career of selling politicians on the fun stuff.
“I went from the circus to chocolate and candy to cigarettes, and now I’m at cannabis,” Folk said, reminiscing on an eclectic career in government relations that’s taken her from Feld Entertainment to the National Confectioners Association to Reynolds American tobacco. Folk’s latest job, however, has been the most personal. In February, she left her C-suite job at Reynolds to get in on the ground floor of the marijuana start-up Cannabis Trade Federation as its top lobbyist.
With wider acceptance of cannabis comes a burgeoning legislative and regulatory infrastructure. Americans’ support for legalization of marijuana is hitting all-time highs. A Gallup survey in late 2018 found 66 percent of U.S. residents approved, transforming marijuana legalization from a libertarian fantasy into a mainstream cause. Changing attitudes toward cannabis have even trickled up to Congress—and that’s where Folk and the CTF come in.
“Our goal is the art of the possible,” Folk said. The CTF’s eventual endgame is full legalization, but Folk’s experience tells her that’s possible only through “incremental steps.” This means passing the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act, which would empower states to make their own decisions on marijuana, and the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, which beefs up protections for banks that provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses.
Folk, 45, didn’t smoke weed growing up in the Midwest; beer and wine were her vices of choice. It was only after she was diagnosed with pancolitis in adulthood that she used cannabis to manage the pain from the disease.
“Doctors were throwing opioids at me, and I know I would have been addicted if I hadn’t been turned on to cannabis by a friend,” she said.
Now she’s using her personal experience to change the stigmas and the laws on marijuana use.
“There are thousands of people out there like me, and we owe it to them to help.”
—Kirk A. Bado