Last week I posted Part 1 where I first wrote on women in the cannabis industry. Following is my interview with the manager of one of the largest medical marijuana dispensaries in our part of Arizona. I’m interested about her experience working in this industry, both the positive and the negative. Her name has been changed to ‘Samantha’ at her request to protect her privacy.
(NfaF) How long have you worked in the cannabis industry and how did you get involved?
(Samantha) I’ve worked for the industry for nearly two and a half years. I got involved because of friend of mine was managing a dispensary at the time. They were getting busier and busier and needed extra help.
(NfaF) Are you interested in remaining in the cannabis industry? If so, is there any specific side of the industry that you want to work in long-term?
(Samantha) Yes. I would like to either work in cultivation or continue with retail. Cultivation is the production of the marijuana plants. It feeds into the extractions and the concentrates, and that feeds into making edibles, topicals, sprays and a whole wide range of products.
(NfaF) Being female, have you experienced any differential treatment whether it be positive or negative?
(Samantha) I have experienced some negative differential treatment; men get paid more, men are considered more knowledgable, and are also more trusted by both female and male clientele. Patients always prefer to deal with male patient care consultants.There is a lot of sexual harassment inside and outside, if I [a woman] smoke weed I must have ‘loose morals.’ Once, I was up in Phoenix dropping off an order at another dispensary. The whole attitude was disrespectful and unprofessional. They only spoke about smoking, not about growing techniques, extraction processes, scientific research – basically conveying their assumption I don’t have, or care to have, that type of knowledge.
(NfaF) I read there is a higher number of women employed at the top level of the cannabis industry then any other industry. What kinds of opportunities do you see for women in this field?
(Samantha) What is great is that this industry is being pioneered during the time when gender equality is at the forefront. Because the industry is so new, it allows women to solidify their position at the top level or even establish a new business. Due to the differing legal status across states, most if not all cannabis-focused businesses are small businesses. Women are able to build and develop a small business without any pre-existing glass ceiling. Many large corporations are long established, where a glass ceiling still exists because gender discrimination has been somewhat ingrained over the years. In the cannabis industry, whoever gets there first, women or men, will be successful. Everything is new in this industry. Say, for example, you are an accountant who recognizes that dispensaries have accounting needs too so you start an accounting firm that solely focuses on business with dispensaries and this business would likely be very successful. There is still a stigma of doing work in the cannabis industry and the reason why a variety of specialized businesses are popping up who focus solely on providing their services to the cannabis industry. Many larger and long-established organizations are hesitant to do business with anything cannabis related because of strong opinions against marijuana. National corporations are particularly hesitant because of varying laws among the states. Women, and men, are able to capitalize on everything in the industry because everything is new and there are certain demands just like any other industry – marketing agencies, attorneys, film production, business development, design, you name it.
Interestingly though, women are pushed to the business, retail, and edible side of the industry. I’ve personally witnessed the growing and extraction areas be dominated by men and if a female is involved, more often then not they are just trimmers. Cultivation and extractions are the real money makers but are still stereotyped as mens arena.
(NfaF) What is the biggest issue you experience surrounding the legal status of marijuana?
(Samantha) Mobility within the overall industry. As far as dispensaries go, you prove yourself with one person, one owner, one company. There are still a lot of trust issues and you can’t just jump into another dispensary and expect to be at the same level. Exceptions to this are Master Growers or Extraction Artists, which are male-dominated positions. If you are a Master Grower or an Extraction Artist, you could be hired in any legalized state [recreational or medical] and are paid a lot of money, if they do it well. It is more difficult to be on the business side and be mobile among states because most are small, individually-owned businesses and regulations vary state-to-state.
The main component of the industry is cultivation and extractions, which has been an underground operation for so long traditionally headed by men. I feel part of this is the reason why women have had greater success on the business end. If you are female and really want to learn from an established grower, there is the increased potential to be completely disrespected and degraded – if I really wanted to grow and decided to move to Humboldt county, I would be very scared. It is scary because there, the gender imbalance is so strong with a weird history and persisting culture. Then you compare that to the business side of the cannabis industry where there is no background and women have accelerated into power – the polarity is weird.
(NfaF) Obviously Prop 205 did not pass in the recent election, do you think the end of marijuana prohibition is near?
(Samantha) I think it is inevitable, but with the new administration, I do not necessarily believe it is near anymore.
Feature image obtained from http://normlwomensalliance.org/about-us/