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One of Austin's first Black, woman-owned cannabis businesses sheds light on disparities in the industry

"As a Black green producer working in the cannabis industry, Black individuals represent less than 4% of this industry," said Kirsten Shepard.

AUSTIN, Texas — The founder of one of Austin's first Black female-owned cannabis companies is shedding light on the disparities in the industry.

"My father was diagnosed with mesothelioma," said PainStopper CEO and founder Kirsten K. Shepard. "So when you see a loved one suffering, you start looking for all kinds of options that may improve their quality of life."

Shepard started researching and created CBD oils and ointments to help ease her father's pain. 

"Before he passed, he said, 'You know, what you created really help me,'" said Shepard. "You know, I want you to continue this so you can help others.'" 

Today Shepard is the CEO and founder of one of Austin's first female, Black-owned cannabis companies, TrueStopper, a hemp-based holistic health business created to help patients with chronic pain and other health needs. 

"We've added some gummies. We have different types of CBD in addition to CBN and CBG," said Shepard. "There are pain patches, there's dog chews, and so we really expanded our line." 

Shepard said getting to this point wasn't easy. According to a recent CrunchBase report, less than 3% of start-up funding in America went to women founders in 2019. For minority women, that number gets slimmer. On top of that, CBD companies can't use traditional funding. 

"As a Black green producer working in the cannabis industry, Black individuals represent less than 4% of this industry," said Shepard. "To me, the disparities are so unfortunate because when you look at who is penalized and criminalized for cannabis-related charges, it's the majority of Black and brown people."

This is why Shepard is excited the senate passed HB2593, which is now headed to the House after an amendment was added. If it makes it to the governor's desk and he signs it, it would reduce penalties for two ounces of THC concentrates from a felony to a misdemeanor. 

Shepard said there are no guidelines for producing CBD products, so not all are made equal. 

"I definitely recommend you look to see if they have what's called a certificate of analysis," said Shepard. "You don't want to have any products that have any molds, any toxins, any heavy metals in them. You want to make sure that the facilities that these products are manufactured in are FDA-registered facilities. You also want to look and make sure that the content of CBD has been verified."

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