Being a woman in the cannabis industry
It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, but it does feel good to have my own company and face head-on a lot of aspects of the world that I had avoided, and thought I would go through my whole life avoiding. The world of business finance, and technical/legal stuff like dealing with the patent and trademark office. In my household growing up, it was my father who paid the bills and earned most of the money to do so. My whole family knows little about business and never embraced the math and science side of life. Now, I’m the person who does the finances, the computer work and most of the technical things. The anxiety is still there, but my primary way of dealing with it has transformed from avoid and delay to roll up your sleeves and get it out of the way.
Is it that the cannabis industry is a boy’s club, or are there just some men in it who turn literally anything into a boy’s club? I would say the latter. There’s a lot of guys who aren’t bad guys, but are very sexist in their behavior and language. There’s a million more subtle things—like the guy who literally won’t even say hi to me but is friendly to Joe. You make excuses in your mind for them because it’s never 100% clear-cut. Maybe he didn’t see me. Maybe Joe is just more likeable.
I do let Joe take the more outgoing role because he is more extroverted, because some guys are very much the boy’s club boys, and because I have another job. Let it not be mistaken for quietness, or blandness, or being less than half of this company.
Growing cannabis appears to be male dominated for a few reasons. First, it has some mystery and some technicality to it, which is emphasized by people who like to seem like experts. A lot of men like to seem like experts.
Second, as many have noted before, the fact that women are disproportionately burdened by the stigma of growing cannabis in relation to having children and worrying about child protective services. Many women who do grow may be single mothers who would rather keep their mouths shut, and keep their kids, than brag about their prowess growing cannabis or even disclose cannabis use.
Third, aspects of cannabis culture still hearken back to the 60s and 70s, which was an overtly sexist time. There was a big gap between Cheech & Chong and the Harold & Kumar movies but the dynamic of two guys is the same. High Times always features ads where young women are near-naked and objectified, while the writers of articles and subjects of interviews are overwhelmingly men. It’s behind the times. Men are still able to live in a bubble where women are peripheral in every way, if they so choose. They can go years without bumping up against the sides of that bubble thanks to plenty of sexist messaging everywhere in our culture, and the fact that very few people will call them out on it.
Many people have told me and Joe that we should have scantily clad young women manning our booth and handing out our fliers. No offense to scantily clad young women, but that’s never going to happen. We’re not interested in feeding into that sexist culture even if it was profiting us.
Being a couple in the cannabis industry
The different paths Joe and I took in life before we met had something to do with gender roles and how willing each of us was to break the rules. I was daydreaming; he was Dennis the Menace. He grew cannabis, I smoked it while reading for poetry class. We bring very different skills to our company and it’s a strength. Joe is the schmoozer, I’m the detail checker. Cannabis was our matchmaker, the first thing we had in common. In business, it’s essentially endless nagging/encouraging each other and ourselves to conquer task after task and high-fiving when something goes well.
How to move forward
As Joe never tires of pointing out, cannabis culture is focused on the flowering female. The cannabis industry should be a natural fit for women, but both men and women must take conscious action to make it develop that way. This is a moment when long-time cannabis devotees are collectively saying “oh shit” as they watch the cannabis industry quickly move down the path to being dominated by corporate drones and their pet regulation-obsessed government officials. This is the time to push back to have cannabis business more closely reflect cannabis culture values.
Men need to speak up. When your friend is talking about “breaking” his “bitches” and throwing around a ton of rapey language in reference to growing cannabis, and doesn’t have the sense to restrain that language when women are present, you can mention it to him after the fact and if he is a friend he will be more respectful next time. Men need to be more creative in marketing than using women’s near-naked and objectified bodies to sell their products.
Women need to allow ourselves to be excellent and let others know about that excellence. We must not let men’s oversize egos get in the way of knowing that we can put the sweat and technical know-how in and get the credit, that we can be the primary ones getting paid and shaping the industry to our needs. We must hold the boundaries we need to hold for ourselves in every sense, support other women, and ensure our male partners are also on board with holding business partners accountable for a minimum of respect towards women. We must take the time to care for ourselves and enjoy the bud and the company of our friends and business partners. It is by doing these things that we make things better for ourselves and for other women in the industry. Instead of spending money for someone to tell you how to be a woman in the cannabis business or looking for an expert to guide you, save that money for your very own business and start figuring out a game plan.