The cannabis industry is a relatively young industry, still traveling through the motions that any budding industry goes through. As a consumer, you might not think too much about where your product comes from, nonetheless who is the mind behind the product, like the CEO of your favorite baked edible.
In my own personal experience as a cannabis consumer, I have not encountered many consumers that research the products they purchase or the cannabis industry as a whole. However, I encourage everyone to discover the story behind their favorite brand because it can lead to deeper appreciation for your top strain and even increase brand loyalty. Despite the commonality of the unconscious consumer, executive-level careers in cannabis are on the rise – for some.
The legalization and general social acceptance of cannabis use has spread like wildfire in the recent decades. Thus, careers in the cannabis industry are booming. These careers vary from budtenders, to lab testers, to cultivators, to CEO’s.
Leadership roles in cannabis appear to be dominated by one demographic in particular, leaving the others far behind them. Women make up just 8% of cannabis CEO’s, reported in Building New Foundations in the Cannabis Industry’s 2021 white papers. Furthermore, the percentage of female cannabis executives has even dropped in recent years. In a MJBizDaily 2021 report, they found that “…The percentage of women who hold executive positions, 22.1%, fell below the average recorded across the larger U.S. business landscape, 29.8% [in 2021].”
It could be considered that the lower statistics are caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lay-offs that came with it, but could there be more to the decline in female executive positions? The founder of Lit Girl Goodies – Kait – sits down with The Emerald Magazine to discuss her experience of doing business in the cannabis industry as a woman.
In a society where feminism is one of the most popular advocacies to unite people, women in cannabis still find themselves struggling with where they stand in their businesses, among colleagues, and the industry in general. Kait reflects on the times she has felt that she was taken advantage of by potential business partners, “In my personal experience, I have been approached many times for all kinds of business opportunities that have never really been to my benefit or the company’s… the theme of some of these opportunities was always, ‘What can we get out of Lit Girl?’ or ‘How can we use the Lit Girl brand and product for our own company’s growth?’”
Lit Girl Goodies is a specialty stuffed-edible bakery based in Maine that started as an Instagram account showcasing her delicious edibles made from home. Since then, the business has grown into a trusted bakery that is even shelved at dispensaries all over Maine. “I started making edibles 8 years ago when I quit drinking as a way to keep my mind busy,” Kait recalls, “And to also be able to socialize comfortably without blatantly smoking.”
Owner of Lit Girl Goodies further expands on the sexism that she has encountered in her career by discussing the beauty standard in cannabis. “There’s a certain level of sexuality attached to women in cannabis, right? Like when you think of a woman in cannabis, it’s usually the hot girl smoking in her bikini,” Kait describes, “But in reality, many of us are mediocre-looking mom’s working tirelessly, professionally and in the home as caregivers to our families.”
The idea that sex sells is made evident by the countless advertisements for colognes, fashion, food and beer that people all over the world are consuming constantly. As the cannabis industry grows and asks to be taken seriously, marketing should reflect a mature business without the distraction of hot stoner girls. Objectifying women for advertisements are a thing of the past, and Kait wants to keep it that way by “…[Normalizing] the average woman in cannabis.”
For women who are interested in starting their own cannabis business, Kait advises to put in your studying hours, “Educate yourself in general business, take a class or 2 [which is] something I wish I had done. Talk to other women in the industry and really feel out what the community is like before committing yourself to it. Prepare yourself for the highs and lows of business, educate yourself on the signs of burnout and emotional breakdown and most importantly, believe in yourself.”
The cannabis industry does not only lack female representatives on the executive level, it lacks the contribution of people of color as well; In 2017, Marijuana Business Daily reported that only 5.75% of cannabis entrepreneurs identified as Hispanic/Latinx, and only 4.3% identified as Black. Many who advocate for equity in cannabis are shedding light on the communities that suffered the most from war on drugs era in the 70s are the people who are still being arrested at higher rates than any other demographic for marijuana possession, and are also not profiting from the cannabis industry’s growing income.
How can an industry thrive without diversity? Where are the new perspectives and backgrounds that are so vital to ensuring success? As the cannabis industry grows and diversifies, consumers will undoubtedly be inclined to return to their favorite cannabis business because they feel welcome and feel that the business has the consumer’s best interest in mind.
Although a completely safe, supportive and fair business place can be difficult to achieve in any industry, it should not be met with a fixed mindset that believes “it is what it is.” There is something hopeful about knowing changes need to be made.
Fortunately, many states that have legalized cannabis are enforcing equality initiatives to support communities of color that are affected by outdated cannabis laws. Surely, there is a long way to go. However, as a cannabis consumer, doing your part by researching cannabis brands can lead to making more conscious decisions about who you are paying and ultimately, supporting.
Emerald Magazine is grateful to Kait for sharing her experience with our publication, and always seeking to give a voice to all who represent the minority in cannabis.