Vangst, a leading recruitment agency in the cannabis field, recently collected data from 166 companies in 17 states on weed employment among women and women. Their results indicate that 17.6% of the 631 female employees held directors or managerial positions. In addition, 43.4% of all companies surveyed are more than 50% women, and 38.5% of (total) cannabis employees are women.
These numbers increase as the market grows and more states get access to legal cannabis, but we can do better. Especially when you consider that of all the companies in the survey, 12.6% have no women in management positions, while 41.2% have only one.
And even if women have had more access to the world of work in recent decades, what happens when we enter the room speaks volumes about what needs to change and how we should constantly work for the same conditions and environments throughout the world of work.
We recently had the opportunity to speak to two women with very different cannabis backgrounds about issues of race, inclusion, equality and patient representation in cannabis. Hear what it's like to watch cannabis from a different perspective in this open interview.
Meet our respondents
Tiffany Bowden:: MA and Founding President, Former Chair of Education and Co-Founder of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, Education Director of the National Diversity & Inclusion Association, Mental Health Attorney, Diversity Trainer, Activist, Author, Educator, and Speaker (see her Mighty) Ted Talk here) .
Adie Wilson-Poe:: Ph.D. Neuroscientist, co-founder and scientific director of Smart Cannabis (formerly Habu Health). Adie is also an expert here at Weedmaps.
This interview was edited for the sake of length and clarity.
About a career in the cannabis room.
World Cup: Cannabis is so new in terms of its place in the general consumer market, and its rise has been incredibly fast. What motivated you first to pursue a career in the cannabis industry? And has this spark of motivation changed?
Wilson-Poe: I mean, for me it was actually the opposite. I was never motivated to be in the cannabis industry at all. I was drawn into industry because of science. I started my academic career and wrote my first scholarship to study cannabinoids as a student in 2004. As a result of my undergrad work, my doctoral thesis, all my postdoctoral research (which was eyeballs) on the evidence, it was me clear every day of my career that we have a number of pieces of evidence here that are completely ignored and ignored by our policymakers.
For this reason, I became a patient lawyer and an outspoken spokesman for all of the harm reduction skills that this plant has, particularly with regard to opioids. I was drawn into the industry just because of my passion and expertise for the evidence. I never thought I would end up in this place. But I think it is a moral obligation on my part to my fellow human beings to use my knowledge of literature and my ability to study this plant for the common good.
Bowden: My career started in marketing and advertising and I was historically very interested in representing minorities and women in advertising and the media in general. But then, in the middle of my studies, my father died, and before my father died, he could tell me that he was using medicinal cannabis for pain relief and relief. I have been able to observe this process and some of the other things that it originally used actually caused very negative side effects, including opioid addiction and constipation.
Since my father was not connected to the community, he got (cannabis) from a dialysis friend, but when his dialysis friend died, he had to revert to the traditional western approach. The opioids and all the other drugs really took him out of his standard personality. After I finally lost it, I was very interested in giving people access to a plant that I thought might help my father.
But before my father, my initial reaction (to cannabis) was actually pretty negative considering that I showed up in the Just Say No and D.A.R.E era. Given all the benefits that I saw that he was associated with, I said, "Okay, why did I react so negatively when this actually has benefits?" I started the search to find out these answers. Then I decided to focus my interest and promote research and patient advocacy.
I also founded an educational company and traveled from state to state to provide people with (cannabis) education. On this trip, I found that I was like one of the few black people in this room who was strange to me. That is why I founded the Minority Cannabis Business Association to push the conversation forward at the same time.
However, I have suffered a great deal of space trauma as it relates to what happens to minorities and women when they come here. There are a lot of people talking about getting into the cannabis industry, but there aren't a lot of people talking about what happens to us when we're here. Our businesses are stolen, sexually harassed, and go through all of these types of trauma. And so my recent work focused more on this space and harm reduction, mental health and support.
About the science behind cannabis and women's health.
World Cup: Healthcare has reported that women are ignored in care and that our complaints are usually written off. So sometimes we are forced to look elsewhere. In response, there appears to be an explosion of weed products for women's health, among other women-specific cannabis products. Do you find these articles helpful or do you feel a trend in the industry? And if you use women's health products, what does modern women like best with modern cannabis?
Bowden: I think that our industry in particular has a lot of misogyny. And you hear that this is the case in many different industries, but you don't necessarily understand how this is operationalized until you are in it. On the one hand, I can say that as an African American woman, I have never identified so much with my gender as in this industry. Because in any other room I would first consider myself black, then a woman, and then I don't feel my wife so much.
However, my wife is extremely felt in the cannabis industry, and that's what I think is the most pushed back. Although the racial component is certainly there, I think the gender component is a bit more explicit, and that's certainly the kind of thing that I ended up doing.
There are many women entrepreneurs who lose their businesses, health concerns and ailments from women are not heard, and then they are only written off as a drama. People are usually on the side of the men who will start their good old boys' clubs, and our voices are silenced in the meantime. We have to do better when women work together and support each other. And when we say things, we have to be ready to believe each other.
Regarding products and the like, I think women need to focus on products that raise and improve the space for ourselves. I particularly like to support women-owned companies and products. It doesn't have to be a women's problem, but I just like to support women in general.
Some of the companies I love no longer exist because of rampant misogyny. Like Julie Dooley, she had a treat company, but she has no control over her space. And there are several others. I have also survived my coccyx fracture and the problems that caused me to leave my organization with Mary's Transdermal Compound, and I absolutely swear by it. I think the Foria brand is also very strong.
Wilson-Poe: Yes. I look at this problem from a completely different perspective, which is not surprising given the evidence. One of the women who supported me as a mentor and did my doctorate. The committee was one of the few people who examined not only the phenomenon of chronic pain in women, but also the gender differences in pain and the gender differences in our responses to analgesic drugs.
We know that women have disproportionate chronic pain than men. And yet the vast majority of all biomedical research ever done was done exclusively on men. Many things that may have been born in the laboratory simply cannot be translated and do not apply in the real world because they have never been tested on women.
There are many things related to female sexuality. Not only the cultural history of all oppression and the patriarchal system in which we live, but also the unconscious stories and constructs that have been given to us. Like when you give birth to a child vaginally, your body is completely different afterwards. And maybe it will recover to its baseline for some people, and maybe it will not recover for others. So there is an enormous amount of woman-specific, birth-specific, trauma-specific pain that requires further examinations and specific treatment.
There is a little literature that supports women with low libido, clinically low libido that cannabis can improve. We also know that cannabinoids have a direct impact on our normal hormonal function. So you have these competing forces where cannabis may increase your chances of getting pregnant, for example, because you have had more sex since your libido increased.
At the same time, chronic daily exposure to these cannabinoids could potentially interfere with your normal hormonal processes, which would promote fertility and fetal implantation in the placenta. So there really is a lot of research still to be done on these products for women's health and sexual wellbeing.
I think in this particular market segment we generally see what we see in much of cannabis marketing: we have a lot of potentially wrong claims and wrong marketing that is done without any evidence, which I am never a fan of.
What I like like Tiffany is a company that supports women and offers these people a service in a model of care, as has always been done. I know that there are tons of products created by a founder who looks after her mother or another family member, and specifically developed a really high quality product that worked anecdotally for many people.
Bowden: I just wanted to piggyback on it because I think there are two things that were really great in what you said. Regarding the latter, there are so many different smaller products that people may not have heard that they are really great. Not only does this have a lot to do with supporting women, but also with combating the rampant classicism in our industry.
Not everyone has millions of dollars to throw behind their brand. And not everyone necessarily has the know-how to secure financing. So there is a great need for education and resources to get into this space.
But we also need more accuracy in terms of reporting. So as not to simply pick out the latest articles or the ones you saw at the last conference. We need to be more diligent when it comes to finding people who do the job, but maybe they don't have the recognition they deserve.
This is true of women who suffer disproportionately from pain. And then I would add that black women in particular are often not disproportionately believed for their pain more than any other group. I tried to work on cannabis issues, especially black women who are in pain because they can titrate differently than western products in general.
As a patient lawyer
World Cup: I know that you are both patient lawyers, and the legal profession in this area is enormous, especially for states that have not yet been legalized. What little known facts or problems have you both seen again and again in medical patients personally, which the average consumer would not necessarily consider or see?
Wilson-Poe: I am a big mitigator, and mitigation is all about risk assessment. Mainly because we have been singing the anti-ban song for so long and have been working for so many decades to repeal these ridiculous laws, there is a real feeling in the advocacy community about the risks of which cannabis cannot be discussed.
You can't even acknowledge that there are risks that are inherently wrong. It is no better than Jeff Sessions to completely deny the medical benefits of cannabis unless we recognize that there are some risks associated with cannabis use. For a sustainable and effective relationship with the facility, be it for personal or medical use or for all of the above purposes, it is extremely important to manage the associated risks.
We know that repeated exposure to THC puts you at higher risk for cannabis use disorders. Repeated exposure also increases the risk of cannabinoid hyperemesis disorder. Admittedly, these risks are lower compared to other drugs or alcohol. That is why cannabis is such an important tool for harm reduction.
But I think there is largely misperception of cannabis and sometimes deliberately ignoring these risks. It is simply irresponsible not to have these conversations. Just like Tiffany, I was a D.A.R.E. Child and I was lied to. I've been told that this drug is as dangerous as heroin, as dangerous as methamphetamine. And that is clearly not the case.
So we have to have honest talks. Some people may be susceptible to cannabis use disorders. We should have these transparent conversations so that we don't repeat some of the mistakes we made with the opioids, for example.
For me, the biggest piece in the advocacy corner is that the right advocacy involves a discussion of the relative risks.
Bowden: Mm-hmm, yes, I totally agree. And I think these are such valid points. I also emphasize these things.
One of the misunderstandings I come across is that people in pain always assume that they need a dry flower or a steam. And that's not always the type of intake you need. Sometimes people can ingest and consume cannabis, and this can make their pain worse because THC makes us overconscious in a way. It could relax you to a point where you no longer think about your pain, but it can also cause you to focus on that pain. It really only depends on the person.
(After the release, Bowden added in an email: "While inhalation-based methods like smoking or vaping provide relief for various reasons, we only scratch the surface when it comes to consumption methods.")
I am also a very, very strong advocate of issues. Topics are actually my number one application. I'm not a big fan of the psychoactive aspect just because there's so much going on during the day that it's not really my method.
I went on pharmacy trips with the elderly to bring patients to pharmacies and do business with them. They really have no idea what they're looking for, and they're generally intimidated on this first trip, but after they were able to walk for the first time, they're good. They know exactly what they are getting.
But I was a little disappointed with the cannabis technician, historically referred to as a budtender, and his level of education. If someone comes in and says they are in pain, they will usually move them to a vape or some kind of pre-roll. So we have to question that a little bit and learn more about the different ways people can enjoy cannabis medicine and cannabis therapeutics.
We must continue to focus on a comprehensive experience, which is ultimately necessary for an overall healthy and sustainable space from a health perspective. There needs to be more clarity and clarification on how quality can be selected in relation to these types of products.
Progress in the cannabis industry
World Cup: In your opinion, what has been the biggest leap in the industry considering the inclusion in the market? Where do you see this lack of consideration and how can the industry do better if it continues to expand?
Wilson-Poe: From my point of view, I think the only thing that was done correctly and I cannot say that it is necessarily cannabis that the conversations are at least conducted. We have never seen a more active industry working for social justice. We have never seen lawmakers talk about the negative effects of war on drugs. We have never seen such a magnifying glass before, how many boardrooms are full of white men over 50. I would say that the biggest leap we have made is that an unbridled conversation is going on about all these recognitions, these inequalities.
The other side of this coin, however, is that despite all the talks, we still have a long way to go. There are still far too many inequalities. And despite all of these conversations, there are still relatively functional programs to alleviate and fix these problems. So I think this was a model time, if not a model industry, in which all of these things come openly and into the collective public consciousness, but we are still doing something about it.
Bowden: To repeat some of the other things I said, we did a great job of talking about inclusion and bringing minorities and women into the industry. I think we have strong reasons in this regard. There are so many different programs that pop up. But even to the extent that we have done great work to bring women and minorities into space, we are not talking about what will happen to us when we are here. And for me that is the next wave and the next push that has to take place.
This means being able to support people when they have to complain in order to develop certain means so that people can fight for what they have created. We need more whistleblowing activities to support people who want to have the healthiest and safest work environment, how you can actually protect yourself with this transparency and visibility.
The whole point of diversity and inclusion movements would mean that when people are oppressed as they go through these kinds of things, we should have mechanisms to pull them up, not to push them down to speak. Diversity is mainly about your demographics. Inclusion is about hearing these voices, and justice is about ensuring that we have restorative justice in various elements.
I also think that we need to broaden the race and gender conversation to include things like skills. We don't have a lot of conversations related to physical performance, mental health, and the like.
Diversity and inclusion training is something that I do with organizations. We have all of these startup organizations that are being created and people see human resources as a kind of institution that needs to be set up at some point. So you have these running organizations, but they don't have human resources, they don't know anything about labor law. It should be a standard that we initially have human resources, but also laws that regulate our own industry and that regulate us in smaller steps than the EOC would do in terms of the number of employees in the room.
(March 6, 2020 update: This article has been updated to include an additional Bowden quote on inhalation-based methods of cannabis use.)