The nail polish looks normal enough: clear, shiny, and sticky as a girl delicately coats the tip of each of my fingers. Then I notice the little green flecks of OG Kush—one of the most popular strains of cannabis—that dot my nails like confetti. The girl looks at me with a delightfully dazed expression as she tells me the sour blue ribbon candy I’m heartily enjoying is actually medicated.
I’m sitting in a palatial outdoor lawn with plush Moroccan pillows and flickering lanterns inside one of Coachella’s most coveted parties hosted by the Weedmaps, a website that helps cannabis consumers find dispensaries near them. Judging by the chill crowd lovingly fondling bright green marijuana plants, I’m in the right place. The yard is taken over by large dome structures, each lit up with neon lights and outfitted by a different vendor showing off their wares. But it was the dome sitting smack in the middle of the yard that was by far the most popular and enchanting.
Inside the structure are four floor tables, each surrounded by women sharing their cannabis-infused talents, including marijuana manicures, Lowell Farms cannabis flower crowns, and custom-blended teas. The femininity was palpable, and the popularity of the tables was overwhelming, leading me to one conclusion: Women are totally going to own the cannabis industry.
“It’s an industry in it’s infancy, so there is no glass ceiling, there’s no ceiling at all,” Kate Miller, CEO and president of the soon-to-launch content and commerce platform, Miss Grass, says a few days later after the smoke had cleared from the Coachella bash.
Miller, the host of the highly popular attraction at the Weedmaps party, came to the industry after working in the traditional entertainment industry where she worked for the likes of television producers Ben Silverman and Lorne Michaels.
The cannabis industry, Miller says, lends itself really well to having female entrepreneurs come in and create an inspiring community in a way that more established businesses can’t.
“Cannabis culture in general, I’d say, has traits that are aligned more with feminine traits. Cannabis culture is centered around compassion and consciousness and community,” Miller said, adding coyly, “Not to mention, the plant itself is a female plant.”
Miller is correct that the plant used for consumption is a female plant, and about the cannabis community being a welcoming place for women. As the Center for American Progress reported in 2014, women make up 47 percent of the American workforce, but they only account for 14.6 percent of executive officers and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.
But in the Wild West of cannabis, women are significantly better represented in the boardroom.
“We are already running 36 percent of the C-suite or officer positions,” Alexis d’Angelo the Los Angeles chairwoman for Women Grow, said citing a 2015 Marijuana Business Daily survey.
It’s d’Angelo’s job to help cultivate and recruit more women for leadership positions in the cannabis industry. Through Women Grow, d’Angelo and other leaders host regular events for women to network, get valuable legal advice, and even discuss the power of branding.
“To be an entrepreneur is great,” d’ Angelo says, “you get to make your own rules and live by your own code of conduct, but unless you’re really a jill-of-all-trades and have experience in bookkeeping and human resources and policies and procedures when it comes to labor laws and all these other facets, it’s really difficult.”
One woman who knows more than a thing or two about the industry is Jane West, founder of Women Grow, Edible Events, and her eponymously named product line.
West’s entry into the cannabis space wasn’t as smooth as Miller’s. “I got fired,” West said with a hearty laugh. West explained that when she saw the marijuana industry starting to blossom, she wanted to leverage her event management background into creating something unique for the consumer.
She started Edible Events as a once a month party for those living in and around Denver to come and consume in a premium environment, complete with live music, food, and more. On February 26, 2014, CNBC aired a segment on her parties and it was the best and worst moment for West’s career.
“Brian Williams talked about it on the 5 o’clock evening news,” she explained, “and I’m in the image, and the title of the video is, ‘Pot-Smoking Moms Unapologetic About Getting High.’” When her colleagues back in Washington, D.C., saw the piece, they quickly let West go with little explanation.
She has since risen to the forefront as a leader in the cannabis movement—female or otherwise—but explained that while the cannabis industry is performing better than others when it comes to gender parity, there is still a long way to go. “Relative to other sectors of the economy there is more opportunity here for women because there isn’t a structure necessarily preventing us from success, but it’s still not domination.”
West and the other women may also be blessed with the ability to see into the future of cannabis sales. In February, Eaze, a California-based marijuana delivery service and technology platform, released data from its 250,000-person user base to show that by late 2016, 33 percent of its users were women, up from 25 percent at the start of the year. One could easily draw the conclusion that the demand for sites catering to women like Miller’s, events focused on females like d’Angelo’s, and highly curated, sleek and fashionable smoking accessories like West’s will only exponentially increase as cannabis goes more mainstream.
But West, Miller, and d’Angelo all agree that the opportunity found in the cannabis space is a rare one for women. “Every single day that goes by we are creating a corporate culture here,” West said of the collective cannabis community. “Everyone here is responsible, whether it’s calling out someone’s bad behavior, or someone’s interrupting of another coworker, or whether it’s just addressing, ‘Hey there’s no black people that work here, we should have black people that work here.’ Just the fact that we are trying to have this be part of the conversation from the very beginning and hold people accountable to creating diverse, supportive work environments, that’s the most important thing.”