One of the biggest complaints to be lodged against the legal cannabis industry is the dearth of women in leadership roles. Certainly, the statistics support this oversight. A 2017 survey conducted by cannabis news site Marijuana Business Daily found that women hold 27 percent of executive-level roles in the industry. And a 2019 study by cannabis recruiting platform Vangst further revealed the invisibility of women in top-tier roles.
However, there is no contesting that this emerging sector, full of promise and possibilities, continues to entice women to join its ranks. With International Women’s Day set to bow on March 8, that is cause for celebration.
For Amanda Friedman, head of professional services at Backbone, a provider of software and hardware solutions for the cannabis industry, International Women’s Day is all about publicly acknowledging and honoring the achievements of an unsung cannabis hero. In this instance, that would be Alison Rivas, owner and founder of Calipso Organics, a cannabis farm in Humboldt County, California.
„Alison has navigated the pathway from legacy to regulated market with both grit and grace,” said Friedman, who also works as a social impact manager at Cookies, a cannabis company co-founded by rapper Berner. „A true trailblazer, Alison had no choice but to pave her own lane as one of the earliest adopters, gaining annual licensure for 30 acres of cultivation in 2019. She has demonstrated that you can be successful in this industry while prioritizing community and environment over profits. That is not something we see from many of the typical cannabis CEOs and leaders today.”
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Because the cannabis industry is wildly in flux, it has the potential to change the narrative of women in business and power, noted Kristin Murr-Sloat, co-owner of AlpinStash, a Colorado-based cannabis grower. „The patriarchy teaches us that our value lies in our size and image,” she said. „We are taught to speak in whispers. This industry is full of powerful intelligent women, who are proving our value is our brain and our ability to be competent businesswomen.”
Correcting the gender discrepancy is a big reason why Scott Sundvor co-founded Space Coyote, a San Francisco-based infused joint maker, with Libby Cooper.
“Since day one, we’ve alternated the CEO and president title every year as a symbol of equality and the equal founding relationship we have,” he explained, describing the unique egalitarianism that defines Space Coyote. “Libby believes in encouraging and mentoring young women to accomplish their personal career goals and exemplifies the type of female leadership we need to see in every industry today. Her mission has always been to have a call to action to have other women join the cannabis industry and achieve not just what men have achieved, but to fully accomplish their personal dreams.”
For Loriel Alegrete, CEO of 40 Tons, a social impact cannabis brand, International Women’s Day is about paying homage to the mothers, wives and daughters of the men who are still being incarcerated for cannabis. As characterized by Alegrete, these are the women “left to pick up the pieces to a broken puzzle. [40 Tons] honors those women for bearing that weight and keeping their families together. Just because we carry it well, doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy. „