We keep hearing the cannabis industry is poised to be North America's first blllion-dollar industry dominated by women, who make up 36 percent of executive positions. Not too shabby, really: women make up just 14.6 percent of executives in the U.S. overall. But that doesn't mean the nascent industry doesn't present some unique challenges for women.
Jazmin Hupp, 32, Founder & CEO of Women Grow, has been featured in Forbes and dubbed a "genius entrepreneur" by Fortune Magazine. Women Grow hosts educational events and online resources to unite and educate people in the cannabis industry.
While women are well-represented in her organization, Hupp tells Civilized, "There are heavy challenges that women face starting any business. We want to make sure that the script was different for the cannabis industry - for women, people of color, for veterans. Since cannabis serves a wide audience, we need a wide selection of people to represent that audience."
The workplace should be diverse, inclusive
At Women Grow, the culture is focused toward promoting diversity and workplace inclusion, taking a cue from the needs of the women it employs.
"All of our staff have a flexible, remote working schedule," says Hupp, "so that they can go have lunch with their kids on their birthday, let's say. Little changes make a huge difference."
Since women often bear most of the responsibility for child-rearing, Hupp says they can run into serious issues working in grey-market states.
"In some areas, any cannabis in the home - even if it's locked away, or legal - is grounds to have your kids taken away. It still happens. Parents in the industry even put their kids through raid training: you have to explain to your five-year-old what to do when cops break down the door. A lot of women either aren't willing to take that risk, or expose their kids to that risk. So that's another barrier to getting into the industry."
But the biggest way that men and women alike can reduce the stigma? Honesty and transparency, says Hupp.
"Our images of what cannabis is, and what it does, are outdated. Leading by example and talking to the people in your life about how cannabis affects you is what's going to change minds about legalization, and whether people would like to try it."
Families are punished by unjust cannabis laws
Jaime Lewis, 37, is a trained chef and the owner of Mountain Medicine, which provides gourmet edibles to dispensaries and other retailers. Over 10 years, she's seen cannabis evolve from a movement into an industry. She says she's also heard about families being punished by draconian cannabis laws.
"I've heard the stories about the CPS removing kids from their homes. It's the industry's responsibility to make sure we change these strict and ridiculous drug laws."
She agrees with Hupp's point that cannabis consumers have a responsibility to be good ambassadors. "It's hard for women in any industry. And if you taking the marijuana out of it, this is like any other business. What we're doing comes from compassion, but it's hard for women in any industry to gain footing. There are barriers to our voices being heard at the boardroom table."
"Coming out of the closet as a cannabis consumer gets the industry on the right footing, and keeps up the conversation about women becoming actively involved."
Hupp says there's a lot of room for growth and improvement, which can be difficult. "Women have to stand for what they need in the workplace on every level, and that's really hard to do."