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Women in Weed – Experiences in the Cannabis Industry

Re-posted from The Cannabis Life Network

Recently, I went to a cannabis conference as media and got asked about my writing. The reactions to my favorite subject, sex and cannabis, varied to say the least. One woman who works in the industry was so impressed that she offered me a job on the spot. Another, looked at my latest article and tried to lay on the slut shame. That is ok. I’ve had that happen before. For me, the beauty of the situation is that I don’t feel shame because… I don’t really have any. This has been a key asset for me and my career in the cannabis industry because if my skin wasn’t so thick, I wouldn’t never be able to thrive. 

But again, that’s me. I am really open about my thoughts on a number of taboo, sensitive subjects and I like to have those conversations, especially if it breaks down stigma. Sometimes, it gets a bit awkward. Not everyone is like that and it made me wonder about the experiences of other women in this industry. How have they been treated? How do they feel about their day to day interactions at work? Do they get treated differently than the men they work with? Curious, I decided to poll my peers and simply ask, what has your experience as a woman in the cannabis industry been like? The responses came fast and what I heard was surprising…

Lets get a few things straight 

To fully contextualize the experiences being shared, there are a few things that need to be said surrounding this topic. The best way for us to understand what is like to be a woman in weed is to ask, openly and often. While we are at, we should ask the men and non-binary cannabis staff as well. If we want to create the best case senario for all the people working in this industry, we need to encourage an environment with open dialogue. Employees need to feel that its safe to ask questions, as well as answer them. 

Not everyone would go public but others made extra effort

There was a surprising amount of reluctance when it came to giving details; a lot of women wouldn’t even touch the subject until I assured them that their information would remain anonymous. I am not talking about acquaintances or strangers, these are close friends and old coworkers of mine. In one case, a woman that I have been close friends with for over ten years refused to discuss anything at all; that was shocking to me. 

From women I knew to those I didn’t, the messages immediately flooded in. The desire to be heard was strong but there was also this static you could feel in the air; the fear hung like a low current. For some it was the fear of being judged socially from the offending party or anyone they are involved with; but, there were a number of these women who were actually concerned about about the companies involved. They knew that what they had endured was completely illegal and that if any regulatory body ever caught wind of it, deserved or not, the organization would take the heat. No one was looking to blow the whistle and in the end, few of the women who told stories like this ended up letting me tell their tales. It was clear to see that all of these women stay in the industry because they love it, but, not all of them like it. 

Anonymous horror stories

“I once worked at an illegal dispensary where they would not let any women roll joints, not even the female GM of the company. This pissed me off because I am a great roller. One of the guys couldn’t even roll and had to use one of those little rolling machine boxes. They wouldn’t even let me do that. When I asked why, they never gave me an answer. I was told that it was just the way it was.”

“One of my male coworkers seriously came onto me during the staff Christmas party even though I have a boyfriend. I told the guy that I wasn’t interested but he refused to hear it. He would hit on me start to finish, every shift. I was so happy when he finally got fired.”

“So myself, I am a lucky one as I was brought into the cannabis industry by woman. But this doesn’t mean that BEING a woman hasn’t affected me while I work. Recently, my partner and I had decided to start to try and conceive. Over the 5 months we finally did and as soon as we found out, they were gone. Frustrated, it affected my performance at work. I am not someone who likes to let others see me while I feel weak, let alone tell them. In a frustrated moment, I brought attention to some minor compilations within the company and got a whiplash. I was unable to understand why I felt affected in this work environment before the talk with my boss. Putting two and two together, I realized the hormones and my desire for mothering was affecting the space. I am currently working through my emotions and I was removed off of full time due to the frustration it was causing, and really only for myself. My partner and I are stilling trying. This industry can be so difficult to navigate as a woman and this is just my experience. “

“As a woman, I don’t believe I was given as many opportunities as my male counterparts… also,  not given the same perks (travel, festivals, product). I did not feel that the male bosses had my back, and put me in dangerous situations. I have been talked down to when I have questions. I feel that ageism paired with being a woman is what prevented me from being further trained to work, both in the position I was already working in (packaging), or as front of house staff (budtender).  I am aware that my own hesitations also played into some of this. But, I do want to say that there have been some dangerous situations where I felt my life was in jeopardy, yet the person continued to work.”

Girl Power

“So it’s weird because in my area of California, the women have banded together fiercely. I think it’s what we HAD to do, but it is entirely possible for me to act like most men in this business don’t even exist. The women in every single vertical support and go to bat for each other. That being said, if I step outside my network it’s a completely different world. The “Ignite”s of the world want to act like cannabis didn’t exist before Rec, conveniently forgetting that it was women following their feminine witchy path that reforged this plant medicine in the wake of prohibition so that they could heal their communities…. I think it’s disgusting how ignored and marginalized our/their contribution has been. This entire global industry was built on the backs of OG women treating aids patients in San Francisco. Don’t let anyone forget it.” – Chelsea Dudgeon

Chelsea Dudgeon

“ During my time in the cannabis industry as a woman (3 years now) it has been an incredible experience. I started out at Trees Island grown, working as a part time auxiliary and moved my way up very quickly. After not even 6 months, I was a full time key holder and working part time as a distribution assistant. Not 3 months later, I was full time in Distribution and got promoted to Distribution Supervisor. 3 months later, I was promoted to Distribution Manager and co-third party Purchaser . 2 months after that, I solely became third party purchaser while managing a team of 9. I worked there up until early November of 2019, when Trees was raided by the CSU and shut down. I couldn’t help but notice the overwhelming amount of females in high positions. At the Trees head office, woman very much so outnumbered the men. 

After the shut down of Trees, I was offered a job at Victoria cannabis Buyers club. I started at VCBC early November of 2019. As of January 2020, I am now Inventory Manager for VCBC. Again, I notice all the women in powerful positions at VCBC. While there are still men in powerful positions, I have noticed there are more women. I personally feel the cannabis industry is recognizing women and not taking our hard work for granted. This is only my point of view in the 3 years and two spaces I have worked in. I feel so grateful to have been recognized for my hard work and put in the positions I have been. ” – Nicole Downs 

Nicole Downs

Male Allies

“I don’t have a vagina but I have observed that some growers in the prohibition era didn’t pay their female employees on the same scale, or at the same time or frequency as their male employees. Also the jobs were less construction intensive and more about plant management. Swinging a hammer and building staging doesn’t require a penis.” – Nolan Gibson

“The Me Too movement was just beginning and facebook was filled with #metoo posts. Amidst all of it, my boss, Ted Smith, made a point of being an ally. He posted how heartbroken he felt seeing how many women in his life had been through some form sexual harassment or assault and that if god forbid, he had ever unknowingly done anything like that or made anyone ever feel uncomfortable, he was really really sorry. I had just started working with him after leaving a boys club dispensary and it meant a lot to know that some of the men in this industry are checking themselves.” – Anonymous

There were a total of 16 people that came forward when they were asked about sexism in the industry. These are the experiences of only 8 of women. Expect to see follow up articles on this subject because if the truth is what we are actually after, this topic will need constant reevaluation. Not to mention, there are more stories that are waiting to be told….

Julia Veintrop
From an early age, Julia displayed a passion for writing and languages, a fascination with journalism and an amazing memory. Her career focus had been gaining skills and experience in many different fields of counselling. Her ambition to have a career as medical general practitioner was interrupted when she became very ill from cervical cancer and the procedures necessary to remove it, beginning almost seven years of severe medical issues. Using the written word as an avenue of release and feeling the miraculous benefits of cannabis first-hand, she developed her skills throughout her illness and shifted her focus to cannabis from the patient perspective. Today, she devotes her life to a cause she truly enjoys, cannabis activism, so that no one need suffer unnecessarily due to lack of education or access.