Why Women Entrepreneurs are Struggling in the Cannabis Industry

by: Ali Porras

Starting a business in any industry is difficult. When it comes to the business in marijuana, it’s often easier for women to find connections offering to “smoke you out” rather than help you out. The year 2018 is upon us, and laws for women’s rights have been around for a while now, but sexism and inequality still linger heavily among us.

women in cannabis industryAre you still reading? Before you zone out or skim because of the possible impression of the “sexism” card being pulled, let me prove the legitimacy of this issue to you. A survey by Marijuana Business Daily found that women made up 36 percent of executives in cannabis-related companies two years ago. By the beginning of this year, that number plummeted from 36 percent to 27 percent. Many women entrepreneurs remaining in the industry are speaking up about their struggles in the cannabis business environment. Women are especially noting the increase of barriers as the industry has significantly grown in recent years. In addition, academic research suggests that investors prefer business pitches presented by male entrepreneurs compared to pitches by female entrepreneurs, even when the pitch is the same. A study done by Harvard Business Review stated that “Start-ups run by women are usually questioned about potential losses, while those run by men are asked about potential gains”.

Krista Whitley, the CEO of a large marketing firm for cannabis companies, claimed “One investor in particular told me he thought it was cute that I wanted to make money. Men don’t get told that in the middle of their fundraising pitches.” This industry is particularly susceptible to harassment targeting women for two main reasons. First of all, most marijuana businesses have been led by men. This continues to be the case. Many businesses that are significantly male dominate can often develop a language and culture that can be blatantly harsh towards women. As a result, there’s no surprise that I’ve met many women in this industry that have had encounters of harassment of varying levels. Secondly, we are still only at the tip of the iceberg in regard to the skyrocketing expansion of the booming marijuana industry. With the industry being relatively young, many people in cannabis management do not have executive-level experience in other businesses. These cannabis businesses are lacking policies to address workplace harassment. Andi Bixel, the founder and CEO of infused ice cream maker Drip, stated “There’s not a single cannabis event that I can go to where I’m not being hit on by everyone” in a recent interview.

We must keep in mind that “The cannabis industry is really brand new,” said Nancy Whiteman, founder of a Colorado-based edible company, “it’s not like there’s 100 or 200 years of history that has to be broken through”. Luckily, there are organizations like Women Grow helping women all over the country face existing gender disadvantages. Founded in 2014, Women Grow is now the largest national network of cannabis professionals with monthly events in 35 cities across the United States & Canada. With several groups currently focusing on helping women in this young industry, business-minded women should feel motivated to take advantage of this great opportunity.

The marijuana industry has produced strains that target a wide spectrum of ailments, but we’re far from producing a strain that addresses the negative effects of sexism. The reality is that gender disadvantages will follow women into most industries. However, the opportunities in this industry exist for those who choose to preserver and take advantage of available resources. So, why not join an industry that is aiming to better lives and that has an empowering female support system? The cannabis industry may just be right for you!



Civilized, T. A. (n.d.). Pioneering women in cannabis industry losing ground, author says. Retrieved November 23, 2017, from http://www.thecannabist.co/2017/11/24/ashley-picillo-breaking-grass-ceiling-women-cannabis-industry/93245/

Cannabis Workplace Sexual Harassment. (2017, November 13). Retrieved November 25, 2017, from https://www.cannalawblog.com/cannabis-workplace-sexual-harassment/

Holman, J., & Kaplan, J. (2017, November 10). Marijuana’s Female Pioneers Are Being Pushed Aside in the Legal Weed Boom. Retrieved November 25, 2017, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-10/marijuana-s-female-pioneers-get-pushed-aside-as-legal-weed-booms

Aspan, M. (n.d.). Why Women Founders Are Ruling Legal Marijuana. Retrieved November 23, 2017, from https://www.inc.com/magazine/201705/maria-aspan/ladies-of-legal-weed.html

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