Lots of people are preparing to cash in as America opens up to legal cannabis. So why do many of the women who’ve grown weed in Northern California for generations feel so left behind?
On a warm September evening, about 70 women gather at The Peg House, a famed roadside burger joint on Northern California’s Highway 101. They arrive in a stream of 4×4 trucks and carpools of Subarus; some have driven hours from remote hillside homesteads. At the state park across the road, there’s plenty of room to pitch tents under the redwoods.
The women are here for a campout hosted by Women Grow, a business launched by female entrepreneurs in Denver in 2014, with the goal of helping women find their footing in the fast-growing weed industry. Paying members of Women Grow can list their businesses in a national directory, or connect with other entrepreneurs through the organization’s weekly newsletter. There are local chapters in California’s Mendocino and Humboldt counties; the Peg House campout was their first joint meeting. Networking, a skill-share for seasonal farming advice, and a one-woman show prepared by Sherry Glaser, a dispensary owner and long-time veteran of the business, are on the agenda.
As states across America choose to make medical marijuana legal, the promise of a noncriminal weed industry is creating a rush for jobs and cash. Women are getting in on the money—in July, Women Grow estimated that some 20 percent of marijuana-related businesses are owned by women. There are women incubating start-ups in Denver and Seattle; in New York, they’re raising capital to meet the costly vertical integration requirements of the state’s new licensing program, which asks marijuana companies to grow their own plants, process them, and sell them at their own dispensary.