There seems to be an emerging trend in this predominantly male industry – women leaders. When Washington’s I-502 was voted on in November 2012, it was the women aged 35-55 who pushed the majority to success. “As a woman, and a mother, this statistic piqued my interest,” says one of our owning partners. What changed?
One can only surmise that it was a shift in the thinking of this particular group of women, mothers in particular, that pushed that change in law. Campaigns aimed at that soccer-mom age group focused on reducing youth access through a regulated system. It was the knowledge that allowing an unregulated black market to exist was more dangerous to our children than a well-regulated system with plenty of checks and balances. After all, drug dealers don’t check ID.
It was also the language in the law that designates significant tax dollars to the funding of schools and education programs. When voters can finally see a large increase in school funding without an increase in property taxes, they notice.
“For me,” says Mary Jane’s House of Grass owning partner, Amy, “it was a big leap from ‘Yes I support legalization’ to ‘Yes I’ll open a pot shop.’ I’ve always supported legalization. I think it’s a much better and safer alternative to synthetic prescription drugs and could possibly hold the cure to many of today’s plaguing diseases. But making the leap to actually putting my stamp on a place where people can come and buy it openly was scary.”
It was a big leap from ‘Yes I support legalization’ to ‘Yes I’ll open a pot shop’.
Amy cites several reasons for the fear including fear of what friends, family, and community might think, and she admits being surprised by several of their reactions, both positive and negative. “It’s never easy being a pioneer,” she says, “but it’s always exciting. There have been so many obstacles – things we never even thought would be obstacles. But it’s a bold new world, a brand new industry emerging from a world of prohibition. How many times does that happen in your life? Never? It’s incredibly exciting to think of the possibilities.”
Women are not only being emboldened by the new legalization, “they are also gentrifying and gentling pot’s testosterone-laden image,” according to the Denver Post. The face of the industry has always been predominantly white and male. “The industry is long overdue for a feminine touch,” says Amy. In this new marketplace, pot shops need to adapt to a new emerging market of middle-aged women. When you enter shops like Mary Jane’s, you will see plenty of female faces. Women have dominated retail for years and marijuana is no different.
Mary Jane’s House of Grass sees women like Amy as a great potential market. “Women in my age group,” says Amy, “are prescribed more anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications than any other demographic in America. Wouldn’t it be great to offer them something completely natural, without the side effects of synthetic drugs? I want to foster the open-minded approach to cannabis, answer the tough questions, and quell their hesitations.”
It’s no surprise that women are now dominating the fields of edibles and topicals. It’s also not just coincidence that those products are the ones that most appeal to women. Many women interested in the plant’s properties want the plant extracts for more practical uses, like trouble sleeping, anxiety, depression and anti-aging applications. Until now, products like these were largely unavailable to the general public.
Amy predicts that consumers can expect to see advertising campaigns aimed more at women in the near future, calling it ‘the softer side of pot’. The industry has a lot of growing to do (no pun intended) and women present a large part of that market – on both the entrepreneur and consumer sides.
“Most of my career I’ve been in fields dominated by men, so this one is no different. And the few women I’ve met in this field have been very supportive and welcoming. We’ve got to stick together.”
Organizations like Women Grow, a national, women only organization aimed at fostering relationships through networking and support, are cropping up to serve this growing demographic. Will cannabis be a bold new frontier for women entrepreneurs? We’re betting on it.