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Women in cannabis today are a driving force in this booming industry, leading companies to success in a wide range of key executive positions. In a world often dominated by men as company leaders, the cannabis industry is providing opportunities in an emerging industry that’s hungry for innovative leadership and fresh perspectives on business. This emerging and growing industry has leveled the playing field and provided opportunities for women in ways not often seen in other markets—and women have responded and are making names for themselves in all of the legal cannabis regions of the country.
Although some media sources report that the number of women executives in the cannabis industry is not what it once was, other more prominent media outlets paint a brighter picture. In early 2018, The New Yorker reported that the cannabis industry “is unusually open to women entrepreneurs.” Other media sources like Ello, a leading cannabis industry information source, reported in October 2018 that the role of women in cannabis ventures is holding strong in both entrepreneurial startups and executive boardrooms, transcending age and ethnic boundaries.
The range of services and businesses with which female cannabis entrepreneurs have made names for themselves range from executive positions in marketing, merchandising, advertising, financial management, law, communications, real estate, and myriad other cannabis industry ancillary businesses—as well as the more typical cannabis occupations like cultivation and concentrates manufacturing.
Women leadership in the cannabis space is not a new development. Women have made names for themselves since the cannabis industry’s inception, and their accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. There have been numerous magazine articles and television show segments documenting the success of ambitious female entrepreneurs and business leaders.
The popular television show Weediquette on the Vice Channel ran an entire segment called “Mary Janes” that profiles the success of women in the cannabis industry. The episode documents the various way women are succeeding in this nascent industry—and earning a lot of money doing so. The business endeavors of these women range from crop cultivation to product development, and business development and operations management to more unconventional business endeavors (one of which is based on female sex appeal—with a cannabis element). In this episode, show host Krishna Andavalu explores the evolving roles women play as they establish niches for themselves in a variety of business pursuits. His insightful interviews explore everything from the exploitation of women in Humboldt cultivation operations to state-of-the-art business practices in Colorado retail businesses.
Financial businesses publications like Forbes and Fortune have run numerous articles about women leadership in the cannabis industry. Forbes has followed the cannabis space extensively, reporting on multiple facets of the emerging industry from a financial and business leadership perspective. As might be expected, industry business publications like Marijuana Venture and Cannabis Business Times have also reported extensively on women leadership in leading cannabis enterprises.
No discussion about the prominent roles played by women in cannabis would be complete without mentioning Women Grow, a group of women professionals who serve the cannabis industry. Founded in 2014 in Denver, Colorado, by Jane West, Jazmin Hupp, and Julie Batkiewicz, Women Grow has the defined goal “to connect, educate, inspire, and empower the next generation of cannabis industry leaders by providing programs, community, and events for aspiring and current business executives.” The for-profit group has experienced explosive growth since its creation.
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Founder West is the CEO of Jane West Enterprises and also owns Edible Events Co., a Colorado cannabis events production company. Co-founder Hupp has a long history in business creation and development and has been named a “genius entrepreneur” by Fortune Magazine and a “top business woman in cannabis” by Forbes. Co-founder Batkiewicz has a background in video production, design, marketing, and sales. These three founding women directed the organization’s growth from its inception through the first two years of its development. Current leadership includes Chief Executive Officer Kristina Garcia, Executive Vice President Gia Moron, Communications Assistant Arielle Paredes, and Legal Counsel Lauren Rudick.
Women Grow is known for its networking opportunities on the local, state, and national level. The group has multiple chapters and enjoys such success and visibility that men are now a regular presence at many of their gatherings. Women Grow has developed such a reputation for business networking and members who love to have a good time that some of their meeting icebreakers and afterparties at national events have become almost legendary. This group of women helps drive business among its members and likes to work hard and play hard.
The success and popularity of Women Grow reached such national attention that the organization was featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine. Women Grow also graced the covers of cannabis industry and culture magazines like Dope.
Prominent Women in Cannabis
When it comes to influential women leadership in the rapidly expanding cannabis business world, the list can be difficult to define—and narrow down. Women have a long reach in many industry segments. As the number of states that allow legal use of marijuana use continues to rise, the number of female movers and shakers continues to increase exponentially.
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The cannabis space consists of wide variety of companies. There are some that “touch the plant,” and others that do not. Many companies support the industry in ancillary roles. Women in cannabis serve the industry in myriad roles. The following list of women hold key positions in a wide range of cannabis-related occupations in various regions of the United States. These women have made their mark in the legal cannabis industry and are fine representatives of women cannabis executives nationwide.
- Jamie Lewis, CEO and Founder of Mountain Medicine in Denver, Colorado. Lewis founded Mountain Medicine, a cannabis edibles company in 2009.
- Amber Wise, Science Director at Avitas in Seattle Washington. Avitas is a producer and processor of cannabis products in Washington and Oregon.
- Jessica Peters, President of Moxie Meds in San Francisco, California. Moxie Meds is a CBD-rich line of tinctures with medical applications specifically for women.
- Patricia Rosi, CEO of the Wellness Connection in Portland, Maine. The company operates the states largest group of medical marijuana dispensaries, with four locations and one grow.
- Beth Stavalo, Founder and CEO of Stavalo Medical Marijuana Holdings in Mesa, Arizona. Stavalo is the head of operations for this leading cannabis brand as well as companies in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
- Koushi Sunder, Founder and CEO of Stemless in Portland, Oregon. Stemless is an online ordering platform for cannabis buyers in Oregon.
- Kema Ogden, Director of Outreach at Top Notch THC in Las Vegas, Nevada. Top Notch THC is a leading cannabis dispensary brand in Nevada.
- Shanel Lindsay, Founder and President of Ardent in Boston, Massachusetts. Ardent created the Nova, a high-quality home decarboxylator.
- Jacquie Cohen Roth, Executive Director of the Maryland Wholesale Cannabis Trade Association. The association represents licensed medical cannabis growers and processors in the state of Maryland.
- Rachael Speegle, Chief Operating Officer of the Verdes Foundation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Verdes Foundation is a medical marijuana dispensary in New Mexico with locations in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho.
The industry has numerous opportunities at high-level positions for women in cannabis with the gumption to chase their dreams and make their mark. This rapidly growing industry is wide open with opportunities and potentially lucrative ventures. Ambitious women are driving the industry and adding a new dimension to executive position that often are dominated by men. For these women, the cannabis industry is green in more ways than one!