Suburban moms selling marijuana is no longer just the plot-line of the Showtime series “Weeds”. It’s a growing reality.
Women are increasingly entering the marijuana market as business owners and customers, as the legal obstacles are gradually cleared and retail spaces grow in number.
Women Grow, a Denver-based industry network for women in the cannabis market, estimates that about 20% of marijuana business owners in the U.S. are female. (Women-owned companies comprise about 30% of all U.S. businesses, but as the majority are nonprofit, they account for just 4% of overall business revenue, according to a 2014 report by the National Association of Women Business Owners.)
In Colorado, the proportion of women in the medical marijuana patient population has grown to 35% in 2015 from 28.5% in 2009, a trend Cassandra Farrington, chief executive of Marijuana Business Media, says extends nationwide.
“As women were seeing friends and kids they knew going through health battles, they became more open to marijuana not as a taboo, but truly as medicine,” Farrington said.
As the drug is becoming more accepted as a medical norm, women are entering the recreational market as well, she said.
“If you walk into most retail shops today, you see a lot less counterculture,” Farrington said. “No more big prominent babes in bikinis holding bongs in strategic places.”
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With more states legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, producers have been able to experiment with more sophisticated products. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical use so far, while recreational marijuana has been legalized in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska and the District of Columbia. The greater variety of THC strength and ways to ingest the drug are increasing its appeal to less-experienced customers.
“As knowledge about cannabis has changed, you can get incredibly strong products and incredibly sophisticated products that aren’t as strong,” Farrington said. “Much like a woman would walk into a liquor store and buy wine instead of Everclear, that’s what’s going on on the marijuana side.”
Female customers also present an opportunity for the overall marijuana market to expand.
“If you walk into most retail shops today, you see a lot less counterculture. No more big prominent babes in bikinis holding bongs in strategic places.” Cassandra Farrington, chief executive of Marijuana Business Media
Women make about 80% of health care decisions for U.S. families, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Communications agency Fleishman Hillard estimates that women will control about two-thirds of U.S. consumer wealth in the next decade.
“Women set up entertainment for families,” Farrington said. “It’s becoming more common to have, instead of a six pack of beer, a little bit of marijuana on the table.”
Jazmin Hupp, co-founder and executive director of Women Grow, said with women controlling the majority of the consumer demographic, it is only logical that women design and sell the goods as well.
Hupp and co-founders Jane West and Julie Batkiewicz started Women Grow in August 2014 with 13 female-run businesses in Colorado. Eleven months later, the network boasts more than 30 chapters with hundreds of members across the United States.
“We’re at a time when the U.S. needs diversity in business leadership,” Hupp said. “The financial crisis was the last straw in the business model that made a small amount of people a lot of money. We’re now demanding more accountability from the businesses we support, and women are central to creating that business model.”
By entering the industry in the current early stages, Hupp said, women have a chance to occupy a greater proportion of the leadership. And new ways to enter the market are developing as marijuana research continues.
She identified topical products and pet edibles as two major budding marijuana markets. Topical products like oils, balms and creams give customers the health benefits of cannabis without the high, while the plant can also be used to treat arthritis in pets without fear of overdose.
“We are still in the really early days,” Hupp said of the industry. “We have a long way to go on what this industry can deliver once it’s legalized nationwide. Now is the time if you want in…You’re invited to the party, you don’t need anyone’s permission, but now is the time.”