In the male-dominated world of cannabis, women are paving the way for more holistic and equitable ways of distribution and consumption.
Why is today different from all other days? Well, today is 4/20, or 420 Day, and people around the world are “celebrating” their favorite flower, cannabis, and all of its wonderful properties. Here at LAMA, we wanted to highlight some of our favorite female entrepreneurs in the budding (haha) sector and we can promise you’re ganja have a good time (okay we’ll stop with the puns). There are amazing cannabis companies, initiatives, and educational programs being founded by women all over the globe – and we’re liking where they’re leading the industry.
For example, Molly Peckler is the founder of Highly Devoted, the world’s first and only cannabis matchmaking company. She’s been featured in Vice, The New York Times, and Forbes for her groundbreaking approach to “bringing stoners together.” With Highly Devoted, Molly helps cannabis users around the world find love and connections with others who appreciate their affinity for cannabis. Molly transitioned into the industry after working as a traditional matchmaker and seeing how cannabis was part of her own love story between her husband and herself. She also saw that cannabis use was on the rise among her fellow young professionals – and that many of the same young professionals felt burnt out and overwhelmed on dating apps. Thus, Highly Devoted works with each client to create a curated, confidential and thoughtful matchmaking experience – IRL. While cannabis matchmaking may not be what first comes to mind when most think of the industry, Molly has also experienced the opportunities and challenges that accompany being a woman in the cannabis world.
“I think the biggest thing is that women such as myself are underestimated. People look at us as just a pretty face, not really there to add much to the conversation. But I really love to upend expectations and prove people wrong. That motivates me, it puts a fire under my belly to keep doing what I’m doing to change the world with love and cannabis, which is really my biggest motivator.”
Lindsey Holthaus is the founder and CEO of Plain Jane, a CBD company “focused on making the smoothest, cleanest, most odorless cannabis products on the market.” After buying an RV and moving to a hemp farm in Oregon, Lindsey and her co-founders started selling and marketing their CBD pre-rolls through word-of-mouth and Instagram. In just five months, they’ve gone from making 20 thousand USD in sales to 120 thousand USD in sales. Lindsey says working on a hemp farm in rural Oregon is about as easy as it sounds…
“In general, I’ve found that the industry is not as welcoming to women as I thought it would be. You’re working with a lot of traditional farmers that still have particular views about women. I worked in politics and the public sector before and that sector, because it is regulated and watched closely, attempts to make women feel welcome. When I transitioned to the private sector there is no censorship. I think this is with startups in the private sector in general. If you go to a pitch event or a venture capital firm, it’s almost always mostly men. There is nothing overtly sexist, just small digs, like someone asking for the owner and not believing I was the owner, or people not wanting to speak with me directly, as if they didn’t trust my judgement. That’s been my experience but I won’t say it’s the same for everyone. There are a lot of female-owned CBD companies that are high end and I can’t speak for what their experiences are like but I think the industry is opening up because of the success of many of women-owned CBD businesses.”
The rise of women-owned cannabis businesses has changed the way we talk about weed entrepreneurship. One of the main trends we’ve seen is how women within the cannabis industry tend to pay it forward and help other women on their entrepreneurial journeys in the sector. Molly highlighted this as well: “One of the amazing things about cannabis is, compared to a bunch of the other industries out there, there’s just a larger proportion of female entrepreneurs. I’m someone that believes that collaboration is better than competition, and I’ve been able to align myself with some incredible female entrepreneurs and I love the fact that we lift each other up and help each other. I know there are a bunch of women who I can go to when I need some help or I need some guidance.”
One of the many reasons we see a greater trend towards collaboration and cooperation in the cannabis industry, especially among women, is the fact that cannabis holds an enormous wealth of medicinal properties. It also puts healthcare and wellness back into the hands of the consumers, rather than the large, predatory pharmaceutical industry. Lindsey says that cannabis actually helps people, especially those who can’t afford expensive medical treatments.
“Our healthcare system in America is so broken. Pharmaceuticals are used as a bandaid by many doctors and often come with a ton of side effects for users. Not to mention the outlandish prices ‘big pharma’ charges. Then there’s this natural plant that doesn’t have those side effects and is helpful for all of these different ailments. This plant is helping people. These companies are helping people. We have customers everyday tell us that we are changing their lives with our products. Fibromyalgia, chronic pain, anxiety, addiction – you name it. Making these products affordable is the biggest social impact that you can have. We could make way more profit but we would rather it be accessible. Some companies that do have higher prices, sponsor people, like veterans, for example, to allow them to affordably access something they truly need.”
This sentiment was shared by Canadian Heather Huff-Bogart, the Founder and CEO of Cannabis Answers, a company that provides educational programming for investors and newcomers to the industry. After suffering from Crohn’s Disease for years, she saw the medicinal benefits of cannabis first-hand. She says that, if it wasn’t for medicinal cannabis, she would be taking fifteen pills a day and would have had to be on long term pain mitigation treatments. When she moved back to Muskoka from Toronto, she realized that there were few resources for those interested in medical marijuana. She started offering cannabis education workshops, seminars, and other programs for the community.
“Being part of the cannabis industry has been a real journey for me and there is never a dull moment, especially when all the rules and regulations are continuously changing. When I relocated to Northern Ontario, I realized that there was no access to education or information about cannabis, which made me think and want to share with people the information that I gained from the many years of working in the cannabis space. Being able to bring education and the facts to people allows them to make a more educated decision about cannabis for themselves whether they use it themselves, or just want to support their fellow partakers or medical patients.”
Heather says that the Canadian cannabis industry, like that of the United States, has its fair share of challenges – and that the recent legalization of Cannabis in Canada has completely changed the game for those in the industry. “Having been a part of the cannabis industry for a while now, I watched Toronto go from maybe four to five dispensaries prior to Justin Trudeau winning the election, to over 100 dispensaries opening overnight in the Toronto area. Then Toronto police fought back with Project Claudia [a major crackdown on Toronto’s dispensaries on May 26th, 2018]. Many women stood up to Project Claudia and fought back, like the Queens of Cannabis, (a dispensary catering to medical marijuana patients), which I did as well. I also co-founded the Toronto Dispensary Coalition and lobbied, raised funds, gathered supporters and successfully fought to have the charges of the 90 people arrested during Project Claudia dropped.”
As more states and countries legalize cannabis for medicinal and recreational use, women are leading the way for innovation and collaboration in the industry. From CBD pre-rolls to marijuana matchmaking, we’re excited for what our amazing female weedpreneurs do next! Happy 420 Day, from Team LAMA. THC you later!
Jill Beytin is a print and radio journalist living in Berlin.