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EmpowHer: Exploring The Impact Of Women In The Cannabis Industry

April 5, 2024

Read the full article on Honeysucklemag.com!

We just finished another March and another Women’s History Month. But really, women should be celebrated all year round — especially in the cannabis industry.

Throughout Women’s History Month, we’re invited to explore the multifaceted narratives that influence women’s lives. Beyond traditional, one surprising aspect of modern womanhood has emerged.

Women’s Leadership In The Cannabis Industry

Did you know nearly one-third of American women aged 21+ consume cannabis? Even with this statistic in mind, it’s baffling to see that women’s ownership of cannabis companies dipped to 16 percent in 2023, decreased from an average of 21 percent in the past two years.

The crazy part is, the only marijuana plants that can produce THC are female! Now, more than ever, it is vital to motivate, inspire, and empower the new generation of women, while giving them a platform to share their story. It’s not easy navigating a male-dominated industry, and Honeysuckle is highlighting some powerful female figures within the cannabis space.

What Are Women Executives In Cannabis Saying About The State Of The Industry?

Chelsea Kossower, VP of Global Expansion at Puffco (C) Puffco

Chelsea Kossower, Vice President of Global Expansion at Puffco

How do you wish to inspire other women in cannabis?

I wish to inspire other women to be resilient—that’s really what we need. I say that because in this industry, you are going to hear a “no”, way more times than [you] are going to hear a “yes”. But when that happens: keep going, keep pushing and prove them all wrong.

What drives you in the field?

The way I see it, you have two options in life: you can wait for change to happen, or you can be on the front lines making it happen. At Puffco, we believe we have a responsibility to accelerate hash culture and help build a future of accessible, safe and clean cannabis consumption. That drives my work every day. I also love that there is a growing group of industry professional women that have seats at all the major hash cups and events in the industry as judges, makers and respected professionals. It’s now almost a requirement for there to be a minimum of one woman seated at any table—people like myself, Fahi Shark and so many others have solidified our roles at the table and are paving the way for more roles to be available. I don’t just want to open a seat at the table for women who follow me—I want to create more tables, with more seats and more opportunities for all females in cannabis to come.

*Editor’s Note: For more about Chelsea Kossower, check out our Honey Spotlight here or get a copy of our 17th print edition here.

Crystal Millican, SVP of Marketing & Retail at Cookies (C) Cookies

Crystal Millican, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Retail at Cookies

How do you wish to inspire other women in cannabis?

As a woman in the industry, one that is historically and systemically male dominated, I actually feel incredibly bullish, enthusiastic and inspired most days. With that being said, there’s no denying that there’s still plenty of work to be done. In order for the future generations of women to feel confident in their ideas and abilities, and comfortable showing up at work as their authentic selves.

I love working in cannabis for many reasons, but a big one is that we are building out the full potential of our industry now. We don’t have to carry over business norms that hold certain groups of individuals back from achieving their dreams.  We have an opportunity to get ahead of certain systemic discrepancies made towards women in professional settings. Likewise, we must work together to leave behind glass ceilings, leave behind pay gaps, bias, stereotypes and other constructs–constructs that have historically made it much more challenging for women and femme-identifying individuals to achieve their career ambitions. I work hard to demonstrate that in the objectives I help my company accomplish every day. I try my best to be an example of what a powerful woman in cannabis looks like by simply showing up for my teams as the truest version of myself.

What drives you in the field?

The cannabis industry still being at its forefront gives us the opportunity to switch up “traditional” business core values and put emphasis on what matters most – DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives for example. We have the chance to shape the future of an industry and choose what mark legal cannabis leaves on the world. It’s a big responsibility, but it is equally exciting to take on, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to be a part of the movement behind creating this legacy for the cannabis industry.

I’m very grateful that, for honestly the first time in my adult life, I can come to work as my authentic self–not having to change who I am to fit a specific mold. I’m able to do this because, in cannabis, we’re breaking the mold every single day. As a woman in the industry, I have a unique opportunity to get my voice across without having to jump through the metaphorical hoops that women in industries around the world have had to conquer for decades.

Leili Fatehi (left) and Laura Monn Ginsburg (right), Partners & Principals at Blunt Strategies (C) Blunt Strategies

Leili Fatehi and Laura Monn Ginsburg, Founders (Partners and Principals) at Blunt Strategies

How do you wish to inspire other women in cannabis?

One of our main goals at Blunt Strategies is to inspire women to take up space in the cannabis industry. There’s so much space for women to — rightfully — take up whether they want to be plant-touching, in ancillary services, or anything in between and beyond. We started the MN Women’s Cannabusiness Network for this exact purpose – to bring together women at any stage and any level of interest to learn with and from one another.

What drives you in the field?

At Blunt Strategies, we’re driven by possibility. In Minnesota, we saw what was possible in creating a dynamic, best-of-breed cannabis industry and we pushed to make it a reality. Now, we see what’s possible in its implementation and rollout and we’re just as excited to make the most of what’s next. We’re here to ensure Minnesota’s cannabis industry is a nation-leading example when it comes to equity and accessibility.

Jess Latham, Co-Founder & President at American Weed Co. (C) American Weed Co.

Jess Latham, Co-Founder and President at American Weed Co.

How do you wish to inspire other women in cannabis?

I aim to inspire other women to pursue their career passions by showcasing that as a female founder, it’s possible to overcome challenges and achieve success in any industry, including cannabis. I’m not going to say it’s not hard work, it can be incredibly grueling to start and run a business. But with determination and resilience, women can break barriers. And with a strong network of support from other women who lift each other up and men who actively support women—like my partner and American Weed Co. CEO Ryan Brooks—women can move mountains. By sharing my experiences and journey, I hope to encourage other women to believe in themselves, take risks and pursue their dreams with confidence.

What drives you in the field?

Improving the lives of others fuels my drive and passion for cannabis. I’ve seen firsthand how cannabis can be transformative, especially in helping individuals recover from opioid abuse or to cut down on alcohol. The plant has proven to be helpful with everything from PTSD to anxiety, depression, pain and insomnia. We’re determined to destroy the stigma surrounding cannabis and change public perception. Smoking a joint or taking a gummy should be accepted just like having a glass of wine or a beer is. I believe everyone deserves access to safe and effective alternatives for health, wellness and relaxation, and I’m committed to making that a reality through my work with American Weed Co.

Kim Stuck, Founder / CEO at Allay Consulting (C) Allay Consulting

Kim Stuck, Founder and CEO at Allay Consulting

How do you wish to inspire other women in cannabis?

Personally, I feel so inspired by other women in the cannabis industry every single day. However, if there’s one thing we can do as a group, it’s to continue lifting each other up. When we all support one another, cheer each other on and encourage even more women to enter the cannabis space, the industry will become a much better place for women in general. Ultimately, my goal is to lead by example and support my female cannabis tribe as best as I can, but it wouldn’t hurt to be someone’s inspiration along the way.

What drives you in the field?

I’ve been a huge advocate for the use of cannabis for many years, especially after my fight with breast cancer in 2022 and 2023. I believe in this industry and the people within it and it’s my personal goal to elevate the cannabis space through normalization of regulation. I want to see cannabis companies treated the same as businesses in other industries and I want consumers to feel confident that the products they consume are safe—regulatory compliance makes this a reality. I’m not only driven to assist governments in developing and implementing regulations that are compatible with other consumable industries, but I’m equally driven to help companies navigate those regulations to reduce risk of recalls and fines, as well as improve quality assurance and consumer safety.

Sasha Nutgent, Director of Cannabis Retail at Housing Works Cannabis Co (C) Housing Works Cannabis Co

Sasha Nutgent, Director of Cannabis Retail at Housing Works Cannabis Co

How do you wish to inspire other women in cannabis?

It’s no secret that, like many other industries, cannabis is heavily male-dominated. My biggest message to women and femme-identifying individuals is that there is not only space for you in this industry, but a need for our unique perspectives, ideas and experiences. The cannabis industry is huge, to say the least, and is only continuing to grow with recreational use of the plant now being legal in 24 states and support for legalization hitting a record 70 percent across Americans. Opportunities within the industry are endless–from marketing to retail, cultivation and more–and there are countless ways to leverage various aspects of expertise and experience to have a successful career in cannabis. I myself used my 10+ years of NYC retail management experience to navigate the unpredictable adult-use cannabis market in New York, and hope to inspire and encourage other women and femme-identifying individuals to do the same.

What drives you in the field?

My team at Housing Works Cannabis Co is what drives me forward on a daily basis and makes me proud to be at the forefront of the New York cannabis landscape. Each day, I learn something new from them, which is a gift I am forever grateful for. From our budtenders to our management staff, I am constantly inspired by their knowledge and passion for the plant along with their willingness and ability to pivot in an industry that is ever-changing.

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