Pubdate: Sun, 28 May 2017
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2017 The New York Times Company
Author: Abby Ellin


Jeanine Moss never expected to get into the cannabis industry. But
that was before her hip-replacement surgery.

Ms. Moss, 62, of Marina Del Ray, Calif., had quit her job as a
marketing consultant before she had her hip done in 2014. As she left
the hospital, her doctors handed her a "shopping bag filled with
opiates," she said. The drugs made her disoriented and woozy.

So she switched to medical marijuana, which is legal in California and
was familiar to her, having grown up in the nearby Venice section of
Los Angeles. Within a week, she had tossed away her

As it turned out, Ms. Moss was in good company: Many of her friends
were also using cannabis to manage their ailments. Slightly
embarrassed about carrying around a drug associated with naughty high
school students, the older women would lament that they had nowhere to
stash their drugs.

"Everyone was pulling baggies out of their Gucci and Louis Vuitton
purses, and I thought, 'Why are we sneaking around like guilty
teenagers?'" Ms. Moss said.

In 2015, she started a business called AnnaBis, a line of
aroma-controlled handbags, clutches, vape cases and other pot-related
accessories. Soon after, she began publishing cannabis-friendly travel
guides exclusively for women - becoming one of a small but growing
number of older women who are marijuana entrepreneurs.

"What other industry is growing so fast there's the opportunity and
low cost of entry?" Ms. Moss said. "Entrenched opportunities already
have their systems set up. This hasn't been created yet."

Her story is typical of the women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who have
started up businesses in the world of pot. Inspired partly by their
own use of the drug for pain relief, or by caring for others who use
it for their own aches, these women see viable business opportunities
and view their work as therapeutic for their customers.

"It's definitely a trend," said Troy Dayton, the chief executive and a
co-founder of the Arcview Group, an investment and market research
firm that focuses on the cannabis industry.

"A lot of women have this family recipe, or they were making a certain
kind of tincture for a loved one who was suffering. Now that pot is
legal, they're like, 'Wow, that thing you were making for Grandma
could be a real product.'"

According to Mr. Dayton, the market for legal recreational and
medicinal marijuana in North America hit $6.7 billion in 2016, a 34
percent rise from the previous year. Marijuana Business Daily, a trade
publication, reported in 2015 that women comprised about 36 percent of
executives in the legal-marijuana industry, compared with 22 percent
in senior roles in other areas.

Since the industry is still finding its way, there is no "built-in
institutional bias against women of any age," said Nancy Whiteman, 58,
a co-owner of Wana Brands of Boulder, Colo., which sells sour gummies,
salted caramels and other products laced with THC, marijuana's main
psychoactive ingredient.

"In a lot of other industries, there are hundreds of years of history
of who is successful and who is not, and there are glass ceilings to
be broken," Ms. Whiteman said. "But there's no norm here. Everyone is
figuring it out together."

Cannabis start-ups are particularly appealing to older women who have 
had long careers. They are "smart businesswomen who see opportunities," 
said John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has 
written the book "Marijuana: A Short History."

These are women, Mr. Hudak said, "who have the type of background and
skill sets that lend themselves to be highly useful in an industry
like this: lobbying, consulting, finance, operations."

That is exactly what Jane Heatley discovered. In 2010, Ms. Heatley,
who owned a real estate title company for 30 years, moved from
Barnstable, Mass., to Corona del Mar, Calif., to care for her mother
after a stroke. Cannabis helped her mother's indigestion and
depression, and it lightened her pill use. So Ms. Heatley, 66, got
licensed to be a primary caregiver in California, which included
learning about medicinal marijuana.

After her mother died in 2012, she moved back east and applied for a
license to open a dispensary. "I thought, for the last stage of my
life, I'd like to do something to give back," Ms. Heatley said. "How
much of a glow can you get from a real estate transaction?"

She is now the president of the William Noyes Webster Foundation, a
nonprofit that is authorized under Massachusetts law to develop,
operate and manage medical marijuana dispensaries. She is set to open
two in the fall.

Other entrepreneurs, like Frances Sue Taylor, 69, are specifically
targeting seniors. She has been teaching older people about medical
marijuana for the last six years and plans in the next few months to
open a dispensary in Berkeley, Calif., just for people 50 and up.

There seems to be a market for such services: A study of 47,140
participants released in December, based on responses to the National
Survey on Drug Use and Health, found that cannabis use among adults
ages 50 to 64 had increased nearly 60 percent from 2006 to 2013, while
use by people 65 and older had risen 250 percent.

Ms. Taylor, a former Catholic school principal, used to think
marijuana was a "hard-core drug like crack or cocaine," she said. "If
someone would have told me 12 years ago that I'd be an advocate for
cannabis, I'd say, 'You've been smoking too much.'"

But now? "I get so much gratification from this work, and it's so
rewarding to see people get healed," she said. "My life is better than
ever. I'm healthy, and I'm starting a new business at 69."

Lyn Kusher, 66, is the founder of Ma Kush's Natural, which is based in
Encinitas, Calif., and sells soaps, lotions, balms and edible cannabis
treats. A mother of three, she had previously worked as a sales
representative and pharmacy technician.

Like Ms. Moss, she arrived at her calling through pain. About four
years ago, after hip-replacement surgery, Ms. Kusher began massaging
coconut oil infused with THC into her side. It helped. So did homemade
"protein balls" - peanut butter, sunflower seeds, protein powder and
15 milligrams of THC.

It occurred to her that her products might have the same effect on
other people. Soon, she got certified to sell balms and bake mixes to
dispensaries in San Diego.

"I've always grown plants and flowers and herbs, because I like
growing," said Ms. Kusher, who has a greenhouse filled with 30 pot
plants of six different varieties. (Coincidentally, "kush" is a term
among pot smokers for a high-grade strain of cannabis.)

Ms. Kusher said she was doing better than she had ever imagined,
physically and financially. "This is the first time in my life I can
completely support myself and my lifestyle," she said.
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