2022 could be a big year for women in the cannabis industry, a business that’s on track to be worth over $90 billion in the United States alone by 2026. Right now, there are powerful women leading the charge at a number of large cannabis companies, and there are organizations dead-set on ensuring growth in that sector continues forward. Inclusivity and diversity ensures that those companies have different perspectives and business practices, and creates new opportunities for products, mindsets, and consumer interests.
There’s plenty to love about the cannabis industry and plenty of opportunities for women to leave their mark. In a business world that’s still growing and still changing, it’s the ideal chance for women and minorities to craft their own version of what they’d like the space to be – forming their own rules instead of following ones that have already existed in other industries.
Kate Miller is the perfect example of that. The head of Miss Grass told Forbes, “I was surrounded by weed products that only reinforced the lazy stoner stigma. There was nothing that represented the full power or history of the plant – and definitely nothing that represented the modern cannabis consumer.”
She set out to change that. “It is a female plant, after all,” Miller pointed out in her interview.
Nidhi Lucky Handa, founder, and CEO of Leune, was after a similar goal. As a woman of color, she says she used her adversity as a catalyst for change and a fuel for growth.
“When I looked at the industry, I noticed that there weren’t a lot of brands speaking to me or my peer group,” Handa told High Times. “On one end of the spectrum, they’re super masculine—even borderline misogynistic—you know, with the girls in bikinis and booty shorts. And on the other end of the spectrum, the brands are super wellness-oriented—which is great and important. But neither of those kinds of brands were speaking to me.”
As for women in higher positions within the cannabis industry, 2022 could be the year they bounce back. For the three years prior, a new report shows that jobs at the executive level of the marijuana industry have been less likely to be held by women recently. That came as a shock in an industry that for a long time had been seen as a “haven” for women, with huge numbers of female leaders, particularly when compared with other businesses.
The number of female execs fell between 2019 and 2021, and now sits at 22.1% – well below the 29.8% nationwide average for women in any business, and even more shockingly far away from the 36.8% portion women took up in 2019.
That trend is particularly surprising, as a recent study showed companies that have women in leadership roles are more profitable than those without. That research was done by a team-up between the National Cannabis Industry Association and Arcview, a gender parity-focused consulting group. They found companies with women at the top produced twice the revenue per dollar invested than those with men at the helm.
Researchers suggest the decline in female-held executive positions could be because white men have easier access to capital, and thus can compete more effectively in the market. Plus, because companies that started out in other industries are now shifting their focus to include cannabis, that floods the weed market with more men. The more corporations continue entering the industry, the more difficult it will be to reach gender equality in the cannabis industry.
Women-Owned Brands to Keep an Eye On
The world’s largest female and minority-owned cannabis company is Riverview Farms. The farm itself is in the Salinas Valley, where the family that runs it has lived and worked for over half a century. Its workforce is more than three-quarters female and includes over 100 team members.
Pure Beauty is a female and minority-owned luxury cannabis brand that focuses immensely on the environment and on doing good. It uses sustainable packaging and brings all water for its cultivation straight from air, and none from the tap. The brand promises to keep itself diverse and fair, and donates some of its proceeds to those who are currently or recently incarcerated.
Santa Barbara County is home to Autumn Brands, a company that started out as two families’ visions and is now 50% women-owned. The product is labeled as “sungrown-indoor flower” that’s pesticide-free and raised by sixth generation farmers.
Osanyin isn’t just run by women, but specifically African Diasporic women. It’s based in Oakland and includes cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use. The company says its vision is to encourage others “to live life to the fullest, love your best, and find renewed inspiration.”
If you are a woman looking to get involved in the cannabis industry, there are plenty of resources available to help you get started.
Arcview’s Women Inclusion Network provides mentorship and empowerment for women looking to enter the space. If you have questions, there are calls every second Tuesday of the month, which you can learn more about here.
Women Grow, an organization in Denver, Colorado, says its primary goal is to “turn legal cannabis into the first female-led billion-dollar industry.” Its platform includes a YouTube channel with helpful videos, links to help people apply for cannabis licenses, a database of career opportunities, and more.
A podcast called How to Do the Pot says its goal is to “demystify” cannabis for women through storytelling, recommendations, and advice.
Cannaclusive works to help minorities in the cannabis industry, focusing not just on the sellers and producers, but also the consumers. “This is a resource for you, as conscious cannabis consumers,” the company says of itself. “Send this database to people in your life so they can support these POC. Use it as a reference when you travel to legal states or shop in your home state. Use this list for collaboration and community-building. Let’s start amplifying minority-owned cannabis businesses!”
Cannabis Doing Good is a consulting and education platform focused on equity, sustainability, and community.