Women in Cannabis Industry: Making Moves with Perception and Power

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There is a wide and long-distance path for women in the cannabis industry. With an industry so unique and with little history, it’s the perfect place for women to show their strengths. And, they’re doing it with perception and power.

Women and the roles they play:

Women have been doing the basic work of the cannabis industry, and they are taking on more as the business expands. If this suggests gender profiling, it only reflects current standards, standards that women are changing with their influence in power roles in the canna-industry:

• Farmers: Women make up a large part of the cannabis cultivation cycle. RollingStone featured Johanna Mortz of PolyKutlture Cannyard. She manages a small crop “using only regenerative farming practices.”

Other female famers include Jennifer Gray of Elysian Fields and Tina Gordon at Home Made Farms. Farming presents a great and continuing opportunity for women with a serious attachment to the soil, farming, and gardening.

They aim to provide fine product, well-raised, and free of toxins in competition with larger farms.

• Budtenders: Women often present an empathic and compassionate interest in dispensary sales. HM (Honest Marijuana) quotes Mia Jane who writes, “I realize as a budtender, I am also some people’s first experience with cannabis, and take such a responsibility with great care and pride.”

Customers need questions answered. But, they also appreciate guidance through the display of options. They seek active listeners as well as information. And, female customers and caregivers for pediatric and geriatric patients seem to prefer working with female budtenders.

And, despite the “Female Budtenders” postings on job boards, you won’t find a job description that is gender specific.

• Sisterhood: Sensing its potential, women have aggressively promoted networking and sisterhood. Jazmine Hupp and Jane Wes founded Women Grow in 2014. The legacy hosts networking events across the U.S. and Canada to introduce and connect those interested in the canna-industry.

Men are welcome, but Women Grow creates events that attract women. Attendees describe events as electric and exciting. The meetings might mingle yoga, games, and balloons with lighting speeches and product introductions. Educator and designer, Kristin Williams reported on a Women Grow Summit:

“The women I saw were strong and fearless while also being compassionate and approachable. They didn’t take any shit – and let us know that we shouldn’t either. These women weren’t afraid to be real, even if it meant cursing (which I found incredibly cool – it reminded us that we don’t have to be ‘good little girls’ and made us feel more intimate with the speaker). I left feeling empowered and excited with tons of new connections that I know will help make my dreams a reality.” 

• Harvesters: Many producers regularly employee females as harvest workers in detailed work. At refinery29.com, Naomi Gibbons wrote, “a trimmer sits there with small scissors and trims off all of the leaves, all of the sticks, and gets it down to the very nug that is sold.

Gibbons continues, “Growers often like women trimmers more because we’re detail-oriented and our hands are more nimble [sic], so we can really get into the nug.” Others have reported a risk of working under pressure and without FLSA protections.

As the harvest season looms, growers will staff up with temporary trimmers who work for pay by the pound. Experienced and patient trimmers can earn major money, but others find the work tedious and even painful.

• Leadership: Women have created positions of their own, started entrepreneurial ventures, and taken leadership roles in advice and management.

Women enjoy a specific advantage. Fair or not, they are not perceived as potheads or stoners. Fact or not, women seem to use modestly and moderately. Profiling tells you that women prefer chardonnay and edibles while men want a beer with their smoke.

The apparent disconnect lets women lean in to lead in advocacy, legislation, and services.

§  Tahira Rehmatullah, a Yale M.B.A., is a leading cannabis consultant. Formerly the General Manager at Marley Natural, she has promoted venture capital interest in cannabis startups as president of T3 Enterprises, Managing Director of Hypur Ventures, and CFO of MTech Acquisition Corp.

§  Toni Fox is the owner of 3D Cannabis Center in Denver. She writes, “I am a passionate activist currently focused on ending cannabis prohibition. I am a grateful and loving mother of two amazing children and am married to the love of my life” (LinkedIn). Under her management, 3D Cannabis Center would make the first sale of recreational use cannabis in Colorado.

§  Jessica Peters is a trained clinician with personal experience with female reproductive disorders. She moved from her experience as Harborside Health Center to create Moxie Meds, “a company specializing in cannabis tinctures for female patients. Medical cannabis by women for women, Moxie Meds combines MCT oil and full plant extract to provide the best possible medications to assist with menstrual cramps, hormonally-related stress, menopausal symptoms, and other reproductive concerns” (Women of Cannabiz).

§  Amy Poinsett and Jessica Bilingsley, founders of MJFreeway, introduced the gold standard for cannabis tracking software. They have struggled to revamp the Freeway after a significant security breach, but they remain the go-to POS system designed specifically for cannabis dispensaries.

Making Moves with Perception and Power

Women in the cannabis industry have positioned themselves as dispensary owners, farms and processors, legal services, investment consultants, and prominent advocates. They have moved in where men lack interest, taken risks others avoid, and bring unique vision and passion to the industry.

The cannabis industry continues to evolve, but currently, it invites collaboration and energy in no fear environments. Everything about it is new and dynamic. So, it lacks the entrenched hierarchies of male-dominated business traditions.

Women should continue to grow and gain influence. The potential revenues and profits hold a very visible threat. The threat of big Agra, large processors, and strict enforcement are not women-centric.