Women in Weed: The female force behind cannabis continues to rise
In August 2015, Newsweek published a cover story about women working in weed. “Though the industry is still predominantly male and employment statistics are somewhat vaporous,” writer Gogo Lidz wrote, “the power and influence of women are, by all signs, on the upswing.”
That may have been a surprising fact for readers of the magazine, but for the women who actually hold those jobs, it’s their reality. If women could play crucial roles in the fight against cannabis prohibition, penning legislation and rallying others for the cause, why shouldn’t they get a fair stake in this booming billion-dollar industry?
In fact, women have been essential to cannabis’ massive growth over the past few years.
They’ve established all sorts of cannabusinesses, from dispensaries and product lines to staffing agencies and law firms. According to a 2015 Marijuana Business Daily survey, women hold 36 percent of all executive-level jobs at cannabis businesses, compared to 22 percent of their peers outside of the industry.
Women know what women need, and a number of these new businesses were created to reflect the needs of female cannabis enthusiasts. AnnaBis and Erbanna both design fashion-able purses and bags that control product odor, while Floria Pleasure and similar companies focus on female sexual pleasure. Even Whoopi Goldberg has entered the market — along with Om Edibles founder Maya Elisabeth, Goldberg now produces a line of edibles and topicals designed with women in mind, including a cannabis rub that eases menstrual pain.
However, while plenty of new opportunities have been created for women, it hasn’t happened without risk. In September 2016, the Center for Investigative Reporting shared accounts from female trimmers who reported sexual abuse and human trafficking on pot farms in California. Meanwhile, December Kennedy, the COO of a Denver greenhouse and lighting company, recalled in an essay on Canada’s Cannabis Digest blog the time police officers and social workers arrived at her house. The mother of three ran an edible business at the time, and the group wanted to see her garden. After a quick inspection, the police officers raised no concerns and left, but Child Protective Services stayed behind. Then they opened a case on her.
Kennedy was lucky; she didn’t lose her children, but many other mothers have. Despite this risk, women are still stepping up, and they have banded together publicly to endorse their needs and support each other. Founded by Jazmin Hupp and Jane West in Denver in 2014, Women Grow brings female entrepreneurs together through networking and other events. There are now 26 chapters in 14 states and the District of Columbia, plus another three in Canada, and it’s not the only group that advocates for women legally and economically. Others include NORML’s Women’s Alliance, Washington’s Women in Weed, and California’s Synchronicity Sisters.
Women have also become some of the most recognizable faces in cannabis. Marijuana use is a central component of the comedy of Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, while High Maintenance co-creator Katja Blichfeld recently developed her Vimeo comedy series into a program for HBO. For her advocacy work and infamous televised F-bomb, Charlo Greene is one of the movement’s top celebrities, though she currently faces significant jail time for operating her Alaska Cannabis Club. And Cheryl Shuman, the “Martha Stewart of Marijuana” and founder of the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club, has made efforts to appeal to a more traditional audience.
The cannabis industry that exists today essentially didn’t five years ago. That makes it different from traditional trades: It isn’t bogged down by generations of glass ceilings. As a result, the expanding field could be the first to include as many women as men — and women are making sure of that.