Exploring the contributions of Womxn to the Cannabis Industry
Byline: Cody Funderburk
One of the many undervalued benefits of cannabis legalization are the opportunities it provides to demographics traditionally limited by the glass ceiling. In fact, Womxn Hold 36% of Executive-Level Positions in the Cannabis Industry according to Marijuana Business Daily, with more female-owned businesses than any other sector in the economy. While still not fully representative, 36% is a stark improvement from the roughly 25% of leadership roles held by womxn in more conventional industries. It’s speculated that the cannabis market provides more opportunities to marginalized demographics because of its modernity, which allows for bypassing entrenched patriarchal structures that keep conventional businesses more male dominated. To usher in Womxn’s history month, here are a few examples of womxn aspiring toward a more inclusive legal cannabis marketplace:
Lanese Martin, Biseat Horning, and Ebele Ifedigbo- The Hood Incubator
The Hood Incubator is a collective organization founded by Black womxn and non-binary persons with the vision of including people of color in the cannabis marketplace, preserving Black neighborhoods by keeping money in local communities of color, while further encouraging legalization to help combat the austere overrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system for cannabis related charges. They are based in Oakland, California, helping to facilitate Black and Brown people entering all levels of the legal cannabis industry, including entrepreneurship and investment. Their work is crucial, considering that less than 1% of legal cannabis retailers are owned by Black people. Their work is also incredibly comprehensive; they offer legal assistance to help with the licensing process, business consultants for advice on marketing, sales and financing, health clinics to educate people on the medical benefits of cannabis, and they’ve even partnered with companies to offer apprenticeships for people who are looking for employment opportunities in the industry. Ultimately, their goal is to create a more inclusive cannabis industry by ensuring people of color their seat at the table. In October of 2017, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director Ebele Ifedigbo (they/them) was awarded the Echoing Green global social entrepreneurship fellowship, and they were recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of 2017’s most daring entrepreneurs along with Jeff Bezos, Issa Rae, and Elon Musk. Both Ebele and co-founder Lanese Martin were named to the 2017 Full Color 50 List.
Aliza Sherman, Melissa Pierce and Ashley Kingsley- Ellementa
Founded by womxn, for womxn, Ellementa is focused on developing a community to access resources and information about the wellness benefits of cannabis. Resources are available both online and offline, with gatherings offered to curate in-person community for members to share their knowledge and experiences using cannabis for wellness purposes in cities across the U.S., including Seattle. Gatherings are spaces to share information “on topics ranging from cannabis consumption for chronic pain, different forms of consumption, use in caregiving, the effects of different strains, and microdosing, just to name a few,” according to their website. Their website offers a cannabis 101 section, exploring cannabis history, cooking cannabis, and information about cannabinoids and terpenes, which are compounds in the cannabis plant that influence the effects, and scent and flavor profiles. Not only is Ellementa founded by womxn, but the organizers and advisors are staffed completely by womxn as well. Aliza Sherman, CEO, has authored eleven books, including “Powertools for Women in Business,” and she appeared on “The Woman’s Connection,” where she denounced William Randolf Hearst, John D. Rockefeller, and Harry J. Anslinger for criminalizing cannabis in the early 1900’s out of personal, monetized interests. She believes that womxn stand to benefit the greatest from cannabis legality, and should rightfully pioneer the emerging industry following the influence of white male interests in its prohibition. Melissa Pierce, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Ellementa also founded the Chicago Women Developers Group, one of the largest groups in the country catering to womxn in computer programming.
One of the criticisms of the modern cannabis industry is that it benefits the white male demographics that originally criminalized the plant for financial interests. Both the Hood Incubator and Ellementa are led by womxn and non-binary persons with the intent to provide opportunity to womxn and people of color to compete and succeed in the burgeoning cannabis industry. Thanks to their contributions, cannabis will continue to grow into an inclusive and representative industry, helping to shatter the glass ceiling for millions.