Over the past couple of years cannabis has been in the media quite a bit, both in Canada and in the United States, in mainstream media and counter culture publications. With prohibition coming to an end, more and more people are discovering just how fascinating cannabis really is; Whether it’s changing societal attitudes, understanding how cannabinoids work synergistically with our endocannabinoid systems, or the business of Big Cannabis there is a lot of attention on this plant right now and, interestingly, on the women who work in the industry.
Women in weed is such a hot topic that industry outlets such as Viceland and Lift cover women’s contributions to the cannabis industry but so do mainstream media outlets like elle.com, inc.com, Chatelaine, and Newsweek. Readers are gobbling it all up and retweeting the stories with a seemingly boundless enthusiasm. Women in the Cannabis Industry is a trending topic for sure, but why, exactly?
Who Are The Women Working in The Cannabis Industry?
They come from all walks of life and work as growers, budtenders, bakers, activists, regulators, policy makers, entrepreneurs, executives, quality assurance managers, marketers, event planners, scientists, investors, politicians, and more. Positions in cannabis are far reaching and can encompass many, many different skill sets which means that the opportunities abound.
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Historically it would appear that men have dominated the cultivation, distribution and culture of weed but that's not entirely accurate. Early societies known for forging often relied on women to gather herbs and to act as healers. Women have known for literally centuries, how useful cannabis is in alleviating pain from menstruation and childbirth, migraines, swollen breasts and in its application as an aphrodisiac.
In more recent years men have taken a front and centre role in cannabis - at least it would appear that way. Due to the underground nature of cannabis farming, precise data is difficult to come by. California’s Board of Equalization, the state tax agency, estimates the state is home to over 53,000 pot farms, many of which are run by women. Apart from the illegality itself of the business there are other, peripheral concerns that women have faced. In particular the threat of having their children taken away has meant that mothers who work with cannabis develop a strong sense of secrecy about their work. “There's an incredible amount of misogyny in both the political movement and the industry,” says Sara Arnold, co-founder of Family Law & Cannabis Alliance, which helps mothers in the United States who have had their children taken away by CPS due to an association with medical marijuana.
With prohibition coming to an end there is very little left to prevent mothers and other women from coming out of the cannabis closet. In fact, Troy Dayton, the CEO of ArcView Group an investment platform that finances cannabis-related businesses says he’s seen a flood of women in the marijuana industry over the past year, and adds that it’s also “become very unfashionable very quickly to have scantily clad women repping products at B2B trade shows.”
Why are women so enthusiastic about the industry?
“Health Canada’s most recent numbers on women and weed date back to 2013, when 7 percent (around one million females) admitted to smoking in the past year — though that number is likely low, given many women don’t confess.” - Chatelaine, The Pinking of Pot, Jun 22, 2016.
Women are one of the fastest growing cannabis consumer demographics and in Canada, women account for up to 80% of household spending - including health care so it only makes sense for brands to target them in their marketing messages. As Jazmine Hupp, co-founder of Women Grow, an international networking group for women in the cannabis industry points out: “You’re going to be going through the mothers of this country to have cannabis in your households.” Essentially what she is saying is that it is the 40 something mother who will decide if cannabis-based wellness products succeed. Amanda Reiman, manager of marijuana law and policy at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) adds “Women are uniquely qualified to lead an industry that seeks to heal its consumers physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
Genifer Murray, a scientist from Colorado cannabis testing facility CannLabs insists that women are better suited for the cannabis industry and will keep flocking to it. “This is a compassionate industry, for the most part, especially if you're dealing with the medical side. The medical patients need time and consideration, and women are usually the better gender for that. The industry is flat-out geared for women.”
As we all know, women are typically paid less for the same jobs as their male counterparts, a brand new industry offers us the opportunities to start fresh without the burden of a glass ceiling or entrenched misogyny that we find in other older industries. Right now, the notion of gender equality is still a possibility in this field. According to Marijuana Business Daily, women make up about 36 percent of executives in the legal-marijuana industry, compared to about 22 percent of senior managers in other industries. Women hold just 4.2 percent of the CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. At tech companies like Google and Twitter, disproportionately few executives and engineers are women. When Jane West, founder of Women Grow and Edible Events CO. was asked why women were eager to get into cannabis she said "Cannabis has more female entrepreneurs because it's nascent. We’re working with a blank slate. Most of these companies didn't exist five years ago, so there isn't a patriarchy and nepotism like other industries."
The allure of helping to shape a post-legalization landscape and to break old, outdated and harmful traditions is hard to resist. It’s not everyday that a new industry is born and this is for many, a once in a lifetime opportunity that we know our granddaughters will be proud of us for.