Women marijuana growers seek to move beyond ‘breasts and buds’ stereotype
With widespread anticipation that California voters could legalize recreational marijuana use for adults next year, a generation of women growers are poised to shed the term “activist” for “CEO.”
About two dozen women working in the North Coast’s flourishing medical cannabis industry will be rubbing elbows after business hours Thursday in downtown Santa Rosa during a launch party for a local chapter of Women Grow, a for-profit networking company.
The women say they aim to break through what some call the “green ceiling” of an industry traditionally run by men, with marketing heavily skewed toward able-bodied heterosexual males.
“It’s been a male-dominant industry for 30 years, and in this last five years I don’t feel alone as a woman in this industry,” said Tawnie Logan, co-founder and executive director of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance.
Women Grow was launched last year by two women in Colorado, where voters legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012. Logan, who travels extensively as a garden consultant, has attended Women Grow meetings in Denver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Oakland “to keep an ear to the ground about how the culture is working with this budding industry.”
“If it’s a men’s networking party, it’s ‘What can I get from you?’ ” Logan said. “At a women’s networking party, it’s ‘Here’s what I have to give.’ ”
Young, successful men in their 20s to 40s are a massive target market across most industries because of the group’s expendable cash, Logan said.
Marijuana is no different.
At some popular marijuana conferences, organizers hold wet T-shirt contests and hire women to wear bikinis and hand out joints. A video made by High Times magazine gives a behind-the-scenes look at a bathing suit photo shoot featuring the 2015 Miss High Times contestants at a Jamaican beach.
In May, Sonoma County’s largest dispensary, Organicann on Todd Road, hosted an event with edgy, tattooed porn star Skin Diamond, who has her own designer marijuana strain.
“There has been a lot of whistle-blowing over two years (related to) how we portray the industry,” Logan said. “ ‘Breasts and buds’ is fading.”
The U.S. cannabis market was worth an estimated $2.7 billion in 2014, according to a “State of the Legal Marijuana Markets” report released earlier this year by the Oakland-based investment network and industry analyst ArcView Market Research.
California has the largest legal cannabis market in the United States, worth an estimated $1.3 billion, according to the group.
“This is an opportunity right now; it is the fastest-growing industry. It’s moving so fast,” said local yoga instructor Ilana Sochaczewski, who is starting the local Women Grow chapter. “So many people are coming (into the field), and patients are coming out publicly.”
A relative newcomer to both Sonoma County and medical marijuana, Sochaczewski has been using cannabis-infused foods, aka edibles, to treat her chronic insomnia for about a year. Sochaczewski, who doesn’t like to smoke, said she started making her own edibles when buying them became too expensive.
Sochaczewski now hopes to launch her own line of infused condiments in August.
Sochaczewski said she wanted to create a network of people she could call upon for business advice and opportunities as she tries to break into the field. She didn’t find an existing group and decided to start the local Women Grow chapter.