Women in the Cannabis Industry – a Myth or a Successful Reality?


Women were not allowed to own a business in the US until 1988, when The Women’s Business Ownership Act was passed. Right, just a little over 30 years ago. It hasn’t been an easy road since then because the higher up the corporate ladder you go, the fewer women you will find. This has not been due to a lack of skills, education, or expertise, as has been noted. 

Now, there’s one area that refuses to bow down to the norms; the weed industry. There are more women in the cannabis industry than any other. As of 2019, 36.8% of the senior-level positions at cannabis companies were held by women, which is not so surprising when you really think about the nature of the industry. It makes sense that the free-minded, open-to-all cannabis industry would be particularly conducive to the promotion of professional women, and with hobbyists and budding entrepreneurs alike honing their cultivation skills and learning the ins and outs of the various cannabis grow mediums, the sky’s the limit.

Positions Held by Women in Weed

What are these women specialized in? They are in finance, law, investment analysis, the medical field, and PR experts, among other fields. There are those in the C-Suite and others behind the scenes working so hard to make dreams a reality, and we highlight a few of them in this article. 

Emily Paxhia

Funding is one of the most important parts of any business and especially when it’s on the start-up stage, which is where Paxhia comes in. As a career consultant at Poseidon Investment Management, she gets in as an early investor with founders and brands. She notes the privilege she and others have to be part of a big thing that is only getting started and believes they can make the most of this chance. 

Wanda James

As the founder of the first black-owned legal cannabis dispensary in the US, Wanda James knows a thing or two about resilience. She is a retired US Navy lieutenant, worked in President Obama’s National Finance Committee, and has been a constant encouragement to women of color trying out business. 

Jessica Billingsley

While there are quite a number of dispensaries, there are not enough companies tracking the seed-to-sale process of cannabis, which is what Billingsley’s Akerna does. As a tech guru, she brought her expertise into cannabis, and now her company is the first female-owned operation of its kind to be listed on NASDAQ.

Megan and Rachael Rapinoe

Founders of marijuana companies are not the only people making a difference. These two sisters are advocates of alternatives to opioids for pain management in sports after experiencing the effects first-hand.  Their company, Mendi, promotes the use of safer options among athletes for pain management. 

Fact: the number of women in the industry, though higher when compared to corporate America, is still quite low.  Also, there are still challenges such as sexual harassment that have found their way from other areas of the corporate world that need to be worked on. 

Why the Industry is Favoring Women

It is not every day that entire industries are formed. The traditional corporate world has only known and acknowledged male leadership for the most part, and so when something new comes up, it is an opportunity to disrupt the old. This is what’s happening here. Some female leaders whose careers had stalled also feel the need to move where they may be appreciated, and traditional business models are yet to be set. A sentiment most of these professionals share is that having held positions where someone was always trying to cut them down to size makes them understand and support each other better.  

There’s yet another reason for the numbers being better in weed than any other industry. For the longest time, cannabis consumption has been associated with men. The image of a woman smoking isn’t the first that comes to people and especially before the mass legalization that happened in several states over the last 10 years. Now, women entrepreneurs want to create safe spaces for their kind. 

What Does the Future Hold for Women Bosses in the Weed Business? 

The ones already taking the lead show that this can be done. They are forming groups to help other women know that they also can enter the industry and succeed, and especially if they did it sooner than later. Such organizations as Women Grow, founded in 2014, bring people together for inspiration, education, and empowerment. 

As for what the future holds, there’s always hope. There are hurdles, but then again, smooth seas never made good sailors. The current female founders already know they have a mandate to help those coming up find a softer landing. 

Still Some Work to Do

Women are not out of the woods yet, even in this liberal industry. Lack of capital is still a nag that prevents enough start-ups from getting off the ground. It sure is a difficult industry for any gender being as new as it is, but the funds flow slower for women as they always have in other areas. While there is still work to do to get the numbers better, it is still great to see these many women rising to take up their rightful places in leadership.