After health issues made it look like founder Ross Middleton would be unable to continue organizing his cannabis activism award project, the Leafy Awards, Cori Petersen felt it was important to step forward.

“Quite a few award ceremonies have come about recently with a lot of major funding under them,” said Petersen. “I see this one as a grassroots one that I really wanted to not see it go away.”

Petersen, who calls herself a “hardcore marijuana advocate,” operates Trip-C Art, Media and Jewelry, with 50 per cent of proceeds going toward cannabis law reform.

Petersen said she believes recognition of this kind is important in the industry and hopes to see more initiatives like the Leafy Awards that aim to bring the community together.

“I would hope it doesn’t cause more conflict than it causes good, because it’s meant to be nice and to recognize people who are trying and making change,” Petersen said. “It’s hard to know what effect it will have but because it’s done with that positivity in the forefront, that’s what I hope it will be.”

Voting is now open on the group’s Facebook page after nominations closed on Dec. 31. Winners will receive a certificate after votes are tallied Feb. 10.

Awards have been expanded this year to include recognition for those producing edibles and extracts as well as a new category for dispensaries.

Since coming to Canada from the U.S. four years ago, Peterson said she’s seen amazing advocacy work being done in this country, but is worried about what will happen to some of that work as more and more new players enter the industry.

“I’m just a little concerned with the lack of business acumen in general in the community and not being professional when it comes to personal feelings,” she said. “More business-minded people getting involved is a positive thing, but then, at the same time, it is being taken out of the hands of the people that started it.”

Going forward, Peterson said she’s unsure if Middleton will ever be able to return to the project he founded but hopes it will continue to grow.

“I’d like to see a different person set up every year to curate it,” she said. “It makes sense if it’s a national award for people from different parts of the country to take it over from year-to-year.”