Women in cannabis are breaking the 'grass ceiling’

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Predictions of massive growth in the cannabis industry mean plenty of opportunities for budding entrepreneurs.  

Women occupied 27 percent of executive roles in the burgeoning cannabis industry in 2017, per Marijuana Business Daily, which Forbes points out is better than the 21 percent they hold in traditional businesses.

And in such a fast-growing industry, there are often more jobs than candidates. 

“Women have opportunities here because there is no established ‘right’ way to be successful. There’s no glass ceiling, because there is no ceiling at all,” Barbara Goldstein, marketing executive and member of the board of KushCo, told Nick Kovacevich, KushCo CEO, per Forbes. 

Others believe there aren’t enough women leaders in cannabis and are taking action to change that. After all, that 27 percent was 36 percent in 2015. An accelerator called the Initiative has been established in Portland, Oregon for women-founded companies in the cannabis industry, with plans to expand into California, reports Portland Monthly. 

“Nobody’s really owned the edible/topical product space in the way you have big dispensary chains or big growers. There’s absolutely no reason a woman should not come out as a consumer-packaged-goods unicorn,” Initiative founder Amy Margolis told Portland Monthly. 

Ashley Reynolds, president of Vermont company Elmore Mountain Therapeutics, said women want to work with other women as they help each other learn about and navigate the industry, reports Vermont Public Radio.

“There’s this industry for us and what we call ‘breaking the grass ceiling.’ That there’s a whole culture of women that are harboring and snowballing this awesome effect of this billion-dollar sector that is the cannabis industry, not being dominated by men,” she told VPR. 

Since the 2018 Farm Bill shifted hemp from an illegal substance to a crop managed by the Department of Agriculture, the floodgates also have opened for CBD; the CBD products market could reach $22 billion by 2022. 

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a component of the cannabis plant that doesn’t produce a high, but some tout its pain or anxiety relieving properties. Women are more likely than men to use CBD products and also more likely to use them in favor of traditional medicine, a 2017 survey found. 

Angel Isaac, a hemp-related entrepreneur and nurse practitioner, believes women have been quick to embrace CBD and cannabis partly because traditional medicine tends to write off women’s ailments or prescribe drugs, reports The Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y. 

“There’s a trust gap in healthcare for women,” Cara Raffele, cofounder of MyJane, which sells subscription boxes of cannabis products, told Quartzy. 

Eighty percent of health and wellness choices in American households are made by women, per Forbes, and many women find CBD or cannabis-related products to be appealing alternative treatment for menstrual cramps, migraines, hot flashes or muscle pains caused by pregnancy. 

Growing acceptance of CBD- and cannabis-related products has led more big brands to get involved. CVS announced it’s stocking Curaleaf products in more than 800 of its stores, per Bloomberg. The pharmacy chain will sell Curaleaf’s CBD creams, sprays and lotions at locations in eight states.

The creator of Jelly Belly has started a new company, Spectrum Confections, that’s developed jelly beans infused with 10 milligrams of CBD, per Food Dive. Initial production sold out. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not endorse food or drinks containing CBD. 

Even Martha Stewart is working with a Canadian company to develop CBD products for people and pets. 

In 10 states and the District of Columbia, both recreational cannabis and medical marijuana are legal; in 33 states, only medical marijuana has been legalized. 

Just over 60 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legalized — double the number in 2000, according to the Pew Research Center.

A recent survey found more than half of respondents were willing to try cannabis if or when it reached legalization. Slightly more — 41 percent — indicated they’d be more willing to try it through food than by smoking it, 39 percent. 

Interestingly, the survey also found almost 40 percent of respondents would view companies more favorably for getting involved in cannabis retail, suggesting, as time goes on, doing so isn’t a risk but a necessity for companies.

“Within 10 years, cannabis will be a regular part of daily routines. From a functional ingredient to an intoxicating buzz, cannabis will reshape fast-moving consumer goods, with food, beverages, beauty, health and tobacco having the most potential for disruption,” Zora Milenkovic, head of drinks and tobacco for Euromonitor, said in a statement. 

Through 2025, the global legal cannabis market is predicted to grow far more than tobacco or alcohol: 2,000 percent compared to 1.4 percent for alcoholic drinks and 1.2 percent for tobacco, Euromonitor notes. Worldwide, sales of packaged food containing CBD are expected to double within two years. 

Health and wellness is a segment that Euromonitor predicts has the greatest potential for cannabis retail, with vitamins and dietary supplements poised to become the largest cannabis-related category in consumer health. 

Cannabis industry job growth is booming and salaries increased 16 percent from 2017 to 2018, per Vangst, an industry recruiting platform. Vangst predicts 220 percent job growth in 2019.  

Average salaries for positions like director of extraction, director of cultivation, compliance manager, dispensary manager and outside sales representative range from $56,250 to $88,000. Budtenders and trimmers, on average, make about $12.25 and $13.25 per hour, according to Vangst data. All of those are among the most hired positions in the cannabis industry and salaries can be much higher for experienced workers.

In a burgeoning industry that’s still illegal in several states and federally, what do companies do with their money? In 2017, it was estimated about 70 percent of cannabis business didn’t have bank accounts, per the Los Angeles Times. 

Concerned about federal regulatory punishments, many banking institutions are wary of cannabis industry businesses, reports The New York Times. Some small banks are willing to work with these companies, or they have become accustomed to wads of cash. 

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