The presence of women in the cannabis industry is an emblem of the movement’s potential to break down systemic inequality in more than one way.  Gender parity seems a far more tenable reality in cannabis than in other industries given that 36% of executive roles in the legal marijuana industry are filled by women.  But the prevalence of women in marijuana business has not trickled into all aspects of the market.

When it comes to the cultivation sector, women are dramatically outnumbered by men.  At least, it feels that way to the few women who have received media attention. Truthfully, identifying cannabis growers isn’t the easiest thing to do, even in states where cannabis is legal. Given cannabis’ federal status as a Schedule I drug, or an illegal substance considered dangerous and medically useless, pot farmers aren’t safe from the federal government’s right to raid and pillage their crop

The following cultivators not only grow like women, but they also have courageously shared the details of their unconventional livelihoods with the world. Each of them faces challenges as a woman in cannabis cultivation, but rather than letting that inhibit them, they have all chosen the path of excellence instead.

Women Cultivating Cannabis

Cassandra Maffey of Verde Natural

Maffey has been cultivating cannabis since she was 18.  She started in the cannabis growing mecca of the nation, Humboldt County, California.  Her women cannabis growers, women cultivating cannabistenure in the industry has given her the experience that drives her success at Verde Natural.  In fact, her widely respected professionalism has attracted attention from celebrities the likes of Tommy Chong.

Verde Natural, once a small medical marijuana shop, is now a 25,000-square foot warehouse comprised of ten flowering rooms and 35 employees.

Under Maffey’s direction, each room is monitored by two growers

Maffey is devoted to the quality of the flowers she cultivates.  “We treat it like our home grow.  If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have the level of quality cannabis we have here,” she said.  She continued, “We pay attention to each plant, two growers per room gives each plant more of hands-on caring technique as opposed to handling them in an industrial manner.  Fifteen of us are trimming, not machines.  It’s all by hand.”

Jennifer Gray of Elysian Fields

A lifelong cultivator, Gray’s mother grew vegetables and had a large orchard, and her father had a small vineyard and grew cannabis.  Though her parents were hesitant about exposing her to cannabis, her father finally allowed her to grow three of her own cannabis plants when she was a teenager.  The experience taught her lessons that helped to shape her cannabis career.

Gray reminisced, “Toward the end of the growing season, my plants started getting attacked by rats.  They would chew on the stalks of the plants, but I was able to keep them alive.  But when I harvested them, I noticed that they had gotten seeded as well.  There was a male plant too close.  So I hand picked the seeds out.

“Having things go wrong my first time was actually a blessing in disguise.  It taught me that you can never count your chickens before they have hatched”

While Gray acknowledges the challenge of being a woman in a male dominated field, she also has found the experience empowering.  Not every man will take her seriously, but their perception of her does not make her any less excellent.

 Johanna Mortz of PolyKulture Cannyard

Mortz’s entrance into cannabis cultivation was a leap into the unknown.  She was working at a hair salon and a dispensary in Los Angeles when her cousin told her that he would be moving to northern California to grow.  Women cultivating cannabis, women cannabis growersShe decided to join him just to help with the harvest.  Originally, she committed to help him for a month.  That month never ended, and she has been growing cannabis ever since.

Mortz admits that the decision to pursue her dream of growing cannabis has caused her to delay other dreams.  “Being a farmer in this industry has also been the reason I have chosen to wait to have children,” she explained.  “It has not been safe to have children on your property for fear that you could be raided and they could be taken away.”

Siobhan and Sloan—The Grow Sisters—of Blessed Coast

These two sisters work on a small family farm and grow their cannabis organically.  What makes these sisters stand out, even more, is their commitment to showcasing women in cannabis through media.  Siobhan and Sloan are the founders of the YouTube channel, The Grow Sisters.  This channel “represents an association of women coming together as a community in support of high quality natural medicinal herbs and food crops.”

“The Grow Sisters has specifically set out to highlight women in this industry.  We are trying to find women products, women-ran farms, or highlight women in the agricultural area. […]  We are seeing a lot of women, stepping out and taking up many roles and we only see this entire possibility growing up from here,” Siobhan said about their use of YouTube as a platform.

Tina Gordon of Moon Made Farms

A drummer, Tina Gordon is used to being a part of male-dominated communities.  While this has made her experience as a cannabis grower less surprising, it hasn’t necessarily made it easier.

women cultivating cannabis“This has been a monoculture geared toward men from cultivation to consumer appeal.  But times are changing.  There’s definitely a gender division around roles, responsibilities, and community involvement.  There’s a lack of visibility and social structure for women farmers because there are so few, which can be a bit lonely,” Gordon said about her experience as a woman in cannabis agriculture.

Before Gordon took over, two women cultivated the land that is now her responsibility.  She feels a deep connection to the legacy of those women and the history of the incredible women growers who operated Moon Made when the farm was entirely women run. Her commitment to their legacy inspires her to empower women interested in getting into the field.

“I get great satisfaction from encouraging young women who are interested in farming to dig in and get dirty.  It’s about jumping in the game instead of standing on the sidelines”

So many women have embraced that attitude in canna-business, and it can only get better from here.

Dianna Benjamin

About the author: Dianna Benjamin is a freelance writer, teacher, wife, and mom horrified and fascinated by social justice and our inability--yet constant pursuit--to get it right.