4 Embarrassing/Enlightening/Emotional Lessons I Learned as a Woman in Cannabis in My 20’s
As I sit down to write this essay, I’ve just ended a frenzied five and a half weeks of events, weekly markets, productions days, social media outreach, brand conceptualizing, research and development, and manufacturing crisis management. And you wouldn’t believe me if I told you the stories, but my company is only four people big. I never expected to get here, and now that I’m firmly planted in the throes of small-business “ganjapreneurship”, I can’t believe I’m actually accomplishing anything. But success? I never doubted I would be successful; I saw my success even from the very beginning of my journey into the Cannabis Industry, when options for women in the space were limited to cleaning up, trimming, looking pretty, or belonging to someone else. It seems we were meant to keep everything neat and tidy, and you know what? We really did just that. We held it together. We kept the gears greased. Still, I felt trapped in this neo-colonial, gender-normative hippie spider web that had me spinning from farm to grow to the warehouse and in the end, the money wasn’t satisfying anymore…and there was a lot of money to be made. But I wanted to be the one pulling the strings too. I hit a lot of walls trying to get to the top. I felt defeated; I had my heart broken; I was even homeless for a while. I think every chapter laid a brick in the foundation for what I’m achieving now- a different kind of success. I always wished there was a manual or some kind of preface for those just arriving in the wild west of weed. So on this very special 4/20, I offer you the next best thing:
Lesson 1- Show up Early, Always Bring Your Own Scissors, Tampons, and Lunch
My second trim job ever…Los Angeles. Downtown. Small room in the back of a busy dispensary, terrible parking situation. A friend of mine invited me to work with her for a guy she’d worked for a few times before. I had trimmed only once prior, after responding to a craigslist ad on a three week visit to the bay area. I worked for a weekend in Eureka and spent the rest of the time crashing on a girlfriend’s couch in Oakland, drinking coffee and chain smoking trim and scissor hash.
I arrive around nine and realize five other people arrived at six AM and I was already late to the party. Here is where that first part comes in- If you’ve ever worked a trim scene, you know about “cherry picking”. People show up early, start working on the biggest, densest nugs to make fast weight and leave you with the “b” buds and the bottom. Be early! That early bird adage is onto something! Since I came strolling in at nine, my selection of tools was limited as well-Ihad the pleasure of using a pair of left handed scissors…I’m right handed. Bring your own scissors! Bring two pairs and keep one in alcohol while you use the other! Maybe you already knew these tips; maybe I’m not capturing your attention yet. The next part of this story is for you.
We’re three hours into trim and chill and aunt flo wants in on the fun. Since I’m obviously no girl scout, I did not bring tampons, pads, cups, or anything else I could fashion into a feminine hygiene product. I scanned the room. Dude, dude, dude, dude, dude, dude, my friend. MY FRIEND! Alas, my friend was not a tampon user, merely a “panty liner is enough” kind of lady. I had to take what I could get. Unfortunately, what I could get lasted me about an hour before I had to ask to leave so I could buy some sanitary products. Since I was leaving, I was assigned to get lunch for the crew. It took me about two hours to procure said products and pick up lunch and by the time I got back, I had leaked through my jeans and there was less than a pound left to trim. I wasn’t compensated for my time as assistant so I left that workday with 200 dollars. Everyone else made off with almost triple. Bring your own lunch. Bring your own tampons. Bring anything with you that you might need. Be prepared in any situation and focus on YOUR money, YOUR time, and YOUR success. Don’t volunteer yourself to be the lunch lady.
Lesson 2- Don’t Sleep Your Way to the Top
Obvious, right? Using your feminine wiles to outsmart your male counterparts is one thing, but giving it up in the name of money is a bit…depreciating. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get somewhere in the Cannabis Industry with T&A alone. In the end, if you focus on sex to sell yourself, you’re dispensable. I learned the hard way-more than once. I’m not going to share a specific anecdote. I’m going to spare the men involved. But I will say that I’ve been deeply heart broken, physically, emotionally, and mentally abused, sexually harassed, and ripped off by men I got involved with because I wanted to work in Marijuana. I am not saying they are all bad, and there is a fair-share of other women who have hurt me as well on this journey, but I will say, with a lot of conviction, that if you want to become successful in any industry, romantic relationships only serve to complicate and there is no ego in business. If you are just an object of desire, you will be replaced as their success grows and their desires change. You will be taken advantage of if you are vulnerable. Not every time, but most of the time. So be careful. Establish your work separate from your personal relationships and compartmentalize the best you can.
Lesson 3- Learn, Burn, and Return
When you get to the point in this industry where you move up the ranks, say someone trusts you to run an operation, or you get offered a position to drive or broker, expect mishaps and occasional failure. Don’t give up. Just learn from your mistakes, take a moment to clear your head, and keep going!
A girlfriend of mine told me a tale once from her time as a driver up and down the coast. She was moving hundreds of pounds in a locked truck bed travelling south, when she noticed the lock had malfunctioned and the topper was loose. Just as she returned her sights to the road, she passed a sheriff’s car. Naturally, when everything can go wrong, it will. He turned on his sirens and began to pull out behind her. She panicked and pulled over and painstakingly waited for him to discover the pot. But he never did, and she felt like she skirted death. She told me she learned something very important that day: The Sh*t will always hit the fan, don’t stand under the fan if you don’t want to get hit with the- you get it.
Don’t expect everything to go right, because when it goes wrong, and it will, you will prematurely panic and give up.
This brings me to my final lesson…
Lesson 4- You Can Do Anything You Want. Don’t Give Up!
Current statistics say that 36% of the Cannabis Industry is owned by women. Only 5.8% of women hold CEO positions at S&P Fortune 500 companies as of April 2017. So you see, the numbers illustrate my point. The odds are in our favor, especially since 36% is only 15% away from being the majority. For every idea you come up with that you think won’t do well, or has already been done, for every situation that makes you want to run away, there’s an incredible outcome waiting for you further down the road. There’s room at the table for all of us, and you can never be a success without trying first.
This lesson I only just learned myself, through the process of beginning my company, BathwoRx LA. I’ve figured out that without the experiences leading up to this moment, I wouldn’t have the confidence to try and the gall to persevere, because I know that every challenge is a lesson and with each new opportunity, the work gets easier. As long as you trust your intuition and believe in yourself, the power of the plant will guide you to the place where your dreams come true. So if you are new to this industry, or if you are working your way up to the top, or if you are already at the top and just need to be reminded- take care of yourself, don’t sell yourself short, and be prepared. Don’t expect others to give you a hand out, but ask for help from the people you trust. Work hard. Love yourself. Be true. Eventually, you will be in the place I find myself now, the tipping point between “Was it all worth it?” and “I wouldn’t change a thing”.