Although women have made significant strides in corporate America, they still have to overcome significant obstacles to break into the traditional boy’s club of big business. However, according to a recent article in Newsweek, “Women in Weed: How Legal Marijuana Could Be the First Billion-Dollar Industry Not Dominated by Men”, within the relatively new medical marijuana and legal cannabis industries, women have been making an impact, in a big way. In fact, the industry has provided many opportunities for women to create their own destiny and become leaders in the industry.
The Legal Cannabis Industry Provides a Level Playing Field for Women
Many of the voices and leaders supporting the current legal cannabis industry are women who have migrated from other industries to capitalize on the new opportunities the industry provides. According to Renee Harrison, founder of Moguly Media, a branding and marketing agency that has crafted a niche within the industry, “What makes this industry unique, is that not only does it operate as a true meritocracy–whereby women are judged on their abilities–women are eager to network and help each other out, especially with peers who are new to the industry.”
Ms. Harrison adds, “The legal cannabis industry is not nearly as ‘cliquey’ or male-dominated as many other industries. There are also plenty of resources and networking organizations, such as Women Grow, who help women irrespective of whether they’re new to the industry or they’re a seasoned veteran.”
The reasons women are entering the industry are as diverse as the women themselves. Some are motivated by their own stories, having being personally been affected by cancer or other ailments that medical marijuana helps alleviate. Others, are motivated by an entrepreneurial drive. For still others, they’re driven by a passion and a belief that adults should have have the right to make an informed adult decision around the choice to use cannabis or not.
The Influencers & Entrepreneurs
While far from an exhaustive list, here are a few of the influential voices and entrepreneurs who are making an impact within the recreational and medical marijuana fields:
Wanda James. After opening her own dispensary, Wanda James, the first African-American cannabis entrepreneur in Colorado, plans to begin a cannabis cooking school dedicated to the creation of edibles. Wanda James has been working as an advocate for legalization ever since her brother was sentenced to nearly a decade in prison for only $120 of cannabis. Wanda James is the director of the Cannabis Global Initiative, and has worked as both a political campaign manager and a Navy lieutenant. She hopes that the industry will continue to grow.
Dr. Tista Ghosh. After acquiring her Master’s Degree from Yale and becoming the Chief Medical Officer in Colorado, Dr. Tista Ghosh began investigating the health effects of cannabis usage. Dr. Ghosh was instrumental in public education and safety following the statewide legalization of “adult-use” cannabis for personal consumption. Dr. Ghosh provides an essential role in making sure that cannabis users stay safe following legalization, doing such research as whether pregnant women can consume cannabis. In so doing, Dr. Ghosh has also supported research into the health benefits of cannabis and will be able to show scientific evidence regarding the drug’s positive effects.
Amanda N Connor, Esq. After graduating Magna Cum Laude from the University of New Mexico School of Law, Ms. Connor started the law firm Connor & Connor, PLLC with her husband, Derek Connor, Esq, where she has focused on cannabis law, business formation and litigation, while tirelessly advocating on behalf of patients and business owners. She’s become one of the leading voices in Nevada for the rights of patients and “cannapreneurs”, frequently contributing to the media and law journals on issues ranging from how to become child’s medical marijuana caregiver to navigating the legal minefield of medical marijuana.
Yoela Palkin. Yoela studied computer science at U.C. Berkeley and technology entrepreneurship at Stanford University, and at just 23 years old, she’s already a serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur who appears poised to shake up the industry with a company she co-founded, Wherefour, Inc. Wherefour is a cash management and business analytics startup that not only helps dispensaries create Apple Store-like experiences for customers, it helps dispensaries maintain compliance and overcome state-mandated regulatory hurdles.
“As a woman who grew up around technology and in the tech industry, I’m accustomed to seeking out emerging sectors with unique challenges that can be solved through innovative product development,” says Ms. Palkin. “The [legal cannabis] industry presents a major opportunity for women, and having women leading in this direction is definitely going to strengthen the cannabis industry, which is something I’m very excited to be a part of!”
Chloe Villano. Working as a consultant in Colorado, Chloe Villano runs a school dedicated to educating individuals on the possibilities and legalities of the cannabis industry. Called Cloverleaf University, the school teaches about issues such as compliance and licensing. Chloe began as a solo entrepreneur, but her influence soon grew. The cannabis industry is incredibly new, and many of those going into it require guidance to remain safe and legal.
Erin McDonald. A self-described, wildly passionate entrepreneur, committed to educating and inspiring the community, the industry and the public. Ms. McDonald is the President of CannaEffect, an organization that advocates on behalf of patients who use cannabis medicinally to alleviate symptoms arising from cancer, PTSD, epilepsy, and other ailments. Through CannaEffect, McDonald’s mission is to connect, collaborate, and support patients within medical cannabis community.
However, she claims at times it’s not always easy: “The cannabis space has been a beast to navigate, but it is one I truly believe in,” says Ms. McDonald. “It’s a movement. It’s history-in-the-making, and it is a cause I’ve now dedicated my heart and energy to living out.”
Jane West. An inspired businesswoman, Jane West has managed to parlay her hobby into a growing empire. Jane West was a recreational cannabis user before she started following cannabis legalization and hosting events. Today, she owns three cannabis-related businesses. She hopes to inspire more women to break into the industry and to own businesses within the cannabis field. To support this, she’s begun running campaigns related to women and marijuana and educational programs related to the industry. Her business acumen has led her to believe that women, not men, will become the primary purchases of cannabis just like many other household products.
Dale Sky Jones. A specialist in both business management and education, Dale Sky Jones has been teaching individuals about how to get invested in the business of cannabis. As chair of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, Dale Sky Jones has worked tirelessly to educate individuals on the benefits of medical marijuana and the legal cannabis industry. Dale Sky Jones is the executive chancellor of Oaksterdam University.
Founded in 2007, Oaksterdam University is a trade school that specializes in teaching individuals about how to enter into the cannabis industry. Oaksterdam University has continued operation despite pressures from federal agents, and Dale Sky Jones has courageously stepped up to ensure that the operations of the university continued based outside of her home.
Women Have an Opportunity to Shape the Industry
There are many influential women in the legal cannabis industry, and it appears as if their numbers will continue to grow. As with many industries, although the industry had initially been primarily male-dominated, as Jane West noted, most women purchase the majority of household products, from food to homeopathic and alternative medicines and it is an industry noted for its compassion; clearly women have a unique opportunity to shape the industry and have a chance to come into their own and excel. Perhaps, as Newsweek alluded to, women will even create the first female-dominated multi-billion dollar sector.