Pubdate: Thu, 11 Feb 2016
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Column: Weed Between the Lines
Copyright: 2016 Boulder Weekly
Author: Sarah Haas


Modern feminism boils down to two main angles. The first is a 
movement driven by equality: equal pay, equal representation, equal 
access to power and position. The second seeks to elevate the status 
of roles commonly perceived as feminine, recognizing the value of 
caretaking in society and increased social stature.

Women who attempt to achieve both know how difficult that feat can be 
because achieving one tends to preclude the other. Either women step 
into traditionally male positions that are more demanding on their 
time and energy or they commit to more nurturing roles that 
disassociate them from money and power. Even if a woman is willing to 
go for it all, her efforts are likely stymied by an inflexible 
society that struggles to accommodate shifting gender roles.

The macro picture echos these individual struggles. No major industry 
in the U.S. is led by women, and no caretaking industry is even close 
to challenging the power or money in those typified by men. But, 
according to insiders, cannabis is poised to do both. Last week 1,300 
women gathered at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver to 
celebrate and stoke that momentum at the second annual Women Grow 
Leadership Summit.

"This may be the first billion-dollar industry not dominated by men," 
Sheri Orlowitz, founder of D.C.- based investing company Artemis, 
says to the theater full of women cannabis entrepreneurs. "But I want 
it to be the first billion-dollar industry led by women. We are not 
here to emulate men, our job is to lead like women."

The data to verify this claim is hard to track down, mostly because 
the cannabis industry is still too young and irregular to know almost 
anything for sure. Nonetheless, pretty much everyone at the Women 
Grow Leadership Summit endorsed the claim. Sure, there are certain 
areas of the industry that are dominated by men; anecdotally women 
are underrepresented in the grow side of operations. Overall, women 
appear to be on par to lead the industry.

What makes this so remarkable is just how big and how explosive the 
cannabis industry is. A recent study by ArcView and New Frontier 
values the 2015 legal cannabis market at $5.4 billion and predicts 
that it will bring in $21.8 billion in annual revenue by 2020, making 
it one of the fastest growing markets in the country. That kind of 
rapid growth attracts a lot of capital and attention, and women are 
well-positioned to be the ones getting that money and leading that growth.

It is possible that this will change. The industry is so young that 
it is tenuous to use its demographic track record as an indication of 
its future, but the women at the core of the industry don't think 
that is likely because women are emerging as more than just business 
leaders; they are playing crucial roles in the normalization of 
cannabis. Mothers, nurses, hostesses, community organizers and other 
roles traditionally perceived as feminine are helping to overcome 
decades of anti-marijuana propaganda and prejudice, crucial to the 
markets continued growth.

Boulder businesswoman Kendall Norris, founder and owner of Mason Jar 
Event Groups, is growing a successful cannabis event company. Her new 
business throws lavish parties for the A-list of the Colorado 
cannabis industry, and she has found social status therein, one never 
available to her in all her years of working in event planning for 
big corporations.

"I spent nearly my whole career in hospitality," Norris says. "It is 
interesting for me to see that the hospitality space is predominantly 
women - in my experience it is probably 80 to 90 percent women at 
hospitality conferences and in hospitality careers. The interesting 
thing is that in the hospitality world it is hard to make a decent 
living. You can certainly make a living, but they tend to be lower 
paying jobs, even director positions."

Norris is an example of a woman who is not only leading a business 
but proving the social value of hospitality. The mission of her 
company is not to make money or gains in equality for women - 
although she is doing both - it is to normalize cannabis use.

And as she does this, she is also seizing that opportunity to make 
money rather than providing the service for free.

Norris charges a lot of money to attend her events, just like Women 
Grow charges women to become a part of its community or attend its 
conferences, and charges even more to businesses who want access to 
that network. Putting a price tag on something society is used to 
getting for free comes with pushback and many people in the cannabis 
world like to chastise the cost that now comes with culture. Women 
Grow acknowledges that viewpoint and their retort couldn't be more on message.

"Women Grow is proof that you can be purpose-driven and still be make 
a difference," says Jazmin Hupp, CEO and co-founder of Women Grow. 
"There is a reason we are for-profit. It is time to stop being 
nonprofit angels and start being women who work for money."

There is cause for some celebration as the cannabis industry is on 
track to do what has never been done before, to build a billion 
dollar industry led by women that simultaneously elevates their 
cultural roles. While this change might be welcome and celebrated, it 
can also be uncomfortable. But maybe that is a sign of progress.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom