Women in Weed: In California’s Estimated $23 Billion Cannabis Industry, How Do Women Fare?

Woman smoking a joint

A few unscientific studies indicate women make up only a third of marijuana consumers. [Photo by Kym Kemp]

From homesteading marijuana mamas sweating as they packed chicken manure deep in the brush to girls teetering on high heels wearing mini skirts at the first cannabis conventions to mothers in blazers carrying computers, women have looked for a way to succeed in the weed world.

How successful are they though? According to a recent article in the Orange County Register, California is already making an estimated $23 billion dollars in cannabis cash. That’s far higher than the next biggest commodity, milk. Are women a part of that economic boom?

A panel discussing women in the cannabis industry

A panel discussing women in the cannabis industry in 2014. [Photo by Kym Kemp]

According to a 2015 chart by Marijuana Business Daily, women have snagged a higher percentage of the executive positions in the cannabis industry then they have in non-marijuana businesses–an average of thirty-six percent compared to a mere twenty-two percent in businesses as a whole.

An article in Telesur, a news organization with Latin roots, speculates this is because “the industry is so new, it isn’t weighed down by a roster of veteran patriarchs, leaving room for women to join its charters.”

One woman suggests, “Nobody is inheriting a business from their father, nobody’s been doing this for 20 years.”

Coming from the Emerald Counties where outlaws have been growing marijuana for close to 50 years, assertions like this erase years of history. However, we have noticed an apparent larger number of women involved in executive in the industry centered around a plant perhaps fittingly nicknamed Mary Jane.

A documentary called Mary Janes: The Women of Weed will be coming out this year. It looks at some of the women creating businesses in cannabis industry. One woman in the film trailer states, “We have the opportunity to create the first billion dollar sector that is not dominated by men.”

Woman looking at marijuana buds

Woman looking at marijuana buds at the Emerald Cup in 2014. [Photo by Kym Kemp]

Whether women from the Emerald Counties, particularly women farmers, will be a large part of this growing sector remains to be seen.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor that came out yesterday points out though that, particularly in cultivation (and investment) “women leaders remain sparse.” The article suggests that “women, particularly mothers, might shy away from growing because there is a stigma associated with it.”

We’d like to see the numbers on women marijuana farmers–particularly those in our area. Hopefully, this will be one area that Humboldt State University’s Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research delves into soon.

We know some local women are already benefiting financially from cannabis. We’d like to know how many and how much they are part of supporting our local economy.

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80 comments

  • I’ve been in the industry for a decade and in my experience about 5% of grows are owned and operated by a single woman. More are owned by a married couple who split the work. But primarily the properties are owned by men with a man hired to manage the grow and woman are hired for trimming or hourly jobs like leafing. I’d love to stop seeing lazy, alcoholic men hired to manage grows over hard working woman based on ill conceived notions that all men are stronger than woman. Women can’t afford property here(these days) without getting married or managing a grow so for independent women who get passed up for well deserved promotions on farms, there is little hope of buying property.

    • For every reply like yours, “J”, I wish I could refer you to a lot of my own experiences with women (i’d call many of them girls) basically slutting themselves around grow scenes to get off easy. Yes, lots of hard workers all around. Yes, lots of alcoholics (more now than ever). But both genders are proving themselves equally fallible in “the industry”. It’s just not true to say women this, men that about the scene. Everybody’s playing.

      • I agree. I wish both genders treated this industry with more professionalism. I’m also aware of how much grow hoes give women workers a bad name, they are looking for a come up by snagging a grower while I’m just trying to come up by working 7 days a week, year round. But overall when a property owner has a choice between two equally qualified canidates he will choose the male over the female. I guarantee and I’d love for there to be data on this topic for our counties.

    • Neven in my life have I heard anyone express the notion that all men are stronger than women.

    • Ladies, I hope you all can find something more respectable to do. You are good people and you deserve to be happy. Drugs are for losers, pot will let you down, make you unhealthy, and damage your children’s lives. Don’t get sold on the drug industry!

    • Hay Jno one i know hires lazy drunks. and sorry women are not as strong as men but can do most of the job. you sound very bitter. you should get some help. maybe counseling ,and stop hanging out with lazy drunks. this might be good place to start. good luck

      • And you sound like a super happy, kind and intelligent person so I care a lot about you think of me:) But really, I do enjoy when strangers personally attack me and pretend they know me and how I live, it says a lot about you, thanks for the chuckles!

    • To call what you people do an “industry” is absurd. Here is a picture of what a commercial pot growing operation will soon be:

      In the first place, there will be laborers. These folks will probably not be white. Although many backwoods, illiterate and uneducated speed-balling weed farmers can expound on the minutiae of genetic drift in cannabis, this type of stoned employee will not be used in commercial cannabis. These new farm workers will likely manufacture clean, organic grow-soils on-site, which will end the trucking of mass quantity amounts of bagged grow-soil all over Northern CA. The disgusting process of using millions of gallons of diesel and gasoline to transport potting soil for the purposes of growing pot, will come to it’s natural end. We hope that the strains of weed that the new grows will produce, will grow well on valley farmland, and not require the augmentation present in potting soils. Plant scientists are implementing this plan now. Since the growing cycle will be less rushed, like in a biker grow, we hope it will take less water, fertilizer, rodent poison. More specialized strains will most likely be grown in huge greenhouses, but pedestrian strains for mass consumption will be grown like row crops, tended to by regular farm labor, and sold cheaply, like tobacco.

      For you folks currently insisting on destroying the forests, degrading the environment, and growing stupidity weed far from your market, there is little hope. Since you are all too stoned to organize, centralize processing and supply, and assemble distribution and advertising and branding, and in fact, too fucked up to do anything at all except take drugs and roar around in giant pickups, while attracting crowds of ridiculous neo-hippie trimmers every summer, and zombie train wreck druggie homeless in the forests the rest of the time, you will all hopefully find out that your time is up.

      As for the women in weed: I know you just want sustenance and a way to make a living in place. I know that women have great strength and abilities. It is possible that women will build something that will last, but I hope you see that you can achieve something beyond
      subsistence farming as a way to pay for the costs of raising your family, and that you could aspire to a regular sort of living in some other industry. Women, grow and evolve beyond the drug culture, start a real business, get an education, be someone. You are a good person, and you deserve to be happy.

    • I didn’t know that ya’ll were so sexist up there….

  • “The industry” is literally thousands of years old, and pushing 100 years old in this neck of the woods. What is now meant by “the industry” in articles like those linked above, and it really deserves notice and clarification, is the government taking a percentage of every harvest, whereas yesterday the government was literally spending our money to destroy the exact same industry. Other than that, there’s really nothing being done to marijuana that hasn’t in some way been done to it a long time ago, by all kinds of people.

    • I’m curious on where you came up with the 100 years number. I’ve done some research and the first instance I can find of cannabis being grown in this area is in the early 1960’s and that was pretty minimal.

      • You’re just taking that too literally, kym. “pushing 100 years”….let’s say 1970, 45 years? change it to “pushing 50 years” for comfort…same point….drawing closer to an inevitable centenial. “Thousands of years old” is definitely true, but might be off by a day or two as well, if you want to nit pick.

        • Considering the service Kym provides to her readers shouldn’t she take all information on her site “too literally”? I consider that to be a requirement for honest reporting.

      • Kym
        The People from Mexico, that worked on the railroad, grew “Marijuana” all over the Eel canyon much before it became a mainstream drug. Check your history. The case that you are referring to was the first arrest after it became a popular mainstream drug.

        The golden spike was driven in 1914 connecting Sausalito with Eureka, so who knows how far back The Weed really goes.

        By the way, that is why the drug is known as “Marijuana” It’s a Mexican word.

        • Ernie, I’ve looked for any evidence of this. I haven’t seen one reference to marijuana being grown here prior to 1960. Please point me to something that would show differently. I think it would be fascinating.

          • Kym
            I was in high school in the late 50’s/ early 60’s. Our health class film warned us of the dangers of drug use. The section about marijuana showed us the brain of a user, it was bloodshot and yellow. The brain of a non-user was clean and grey. We didn’t know much about drugs. When we asked about marijuana, we were told that it was a weed that the Mexicans grew along the railroad and they used it for tobacco. It was ignored at the time. It was only when white kids started using it that it became a problem.

            The photos of the brain became obvious as a lie much later. The racism of marijuana being okay when only the Mexicans used it also became obvious.

            At the time we were under the thought that marijuana was commonly found along the railroad, it was planted and allowed to grow wild. Seeds and all. As far as proving it, frankly I don’t give a damn. (That’s my best Rhett Butler impersonation) I’m just passing along some bullshistory. You can prove it or not, your option. You need to talk to a very old railroad worker. I’d bet that there are some still around. I hope that someone out there knows, and will shine some light on the subject.

            • There are places out in the Midwest where it still grows along the railroad tracks. Some call it ditch weed aka Hemp!

          • According to Michael Pollan’s “Botany of Desire” indica seeds didn’t make it into North America until the 70’s. I think that history misses some of the early growers who had indica in the late 60’s. Prior to that only sativa’s where available and could not finish their flower cycle this far North.

      • i know where. they get this stuff out of thin air. I think the Illuminati told them

  • Farming, of any type, is an extremely labor intensive endeavor. Males are much stronger than females of the same size and typically larger as well. This fact can be expected to make it much more difficult for a female to advance within farming.

    Is anyone fighting for equality in weightlifting? Females just dont lift nearly as much as males do, in weightlifting competitions. Is anyone fighting to correct this injustice?

    • Yeah, but we have stamina, focus, and tend to have excellent team spirit.

      • Yep, if woman are strong enough to endure pregnancy, childbirth and constantly carrying a child while performing other chores than they are strong enough to till soil and lug bags up the mountain side. Not to mention their nourshering nature. Anyone who has grown weed knows there really is only two times a year growing is labor intensive, soil prep and harvest. Any able bodied person can do these two. Trimming for 3 months is much more demanding on body and mind then a few days tilling soil or lifting tarps full of harvested weed.

      • Well that explains why females are better at trimming than males. Generally speaking of course.

      • uncledave you must be joking. what does a womens period have to do with working in the field. or maybe your a 5 yearold. that would explain it.

    • hmm, your second sentence contradicts itself!!! Males are much stronger than females of the same size and “typically larger” as well, how can they be “The same size but then Males can be ‘larger” that makes absolutely NO sense!!!

  • Women grow better pot. Across the board. Every time.

    I can think of at least 20 women i know who grow, many of them by themselves. Most also grow organic.
    I remember when a humboldt hunny was a hard working hills lady who grew pot and food. I know a few who built their own houses too, on their own.

    To say no women have been growing for 20 yrs is BS, ladies in humboldt and mendo have been at it for over 30 years. Most do not have huge grows. They know how to do it right.

    • Imagine! Growing pot AND food?!

      A friend of mine who does many local deliveries for the lumber store reports that most places he visits are strictly mono-croppers, not a carrot to be found….

      • I remember when everyone grew food too, for obvious health/economic reasons but also as cover for the herb and as a way to see pest&other problems. Tomatoes and herb need pretty much the same regiment. In the fall squash leaves will tell you when powdery white starts happening.
        Theres nothing like tending your plants while munching fresh raspberries and other goodies from the garden. The hummingbirds luv hanging around the herb too 🙂
        I highly recommend growing a food garden before doing a cash crop. Its great training.

    • Woman grow the best weed, hands down! I agree they normally grow reasonably sized organic gardens. Just because I love statistics could you give an estimated percentage of how many grows you’ve seen that are 100% woman owned and operated. Or how many woman you think are hired to manage grows compared to men? I’m all for the old school humboldt hunnies!

    • “Across the board. Every time.” is not really the best wording to use if you’re attempting to make a valid point. It’s about the same as when people abuse the word “literally”. It’s like saying all indoor is better than all outdoor or vice versa. It’s also a bold claim considering that, in this county, for every one of those twenty female growers you know there’s probably twenty male growers within a couple mile radius.

      • Have you been to so hum and nor mendo? You’d be surprised how many all women grows there are.
        We just dont put it out there like the dudes, less ego about it.
        Plus there are women working at every level, tho i’d say the buyer/driver market is majority male.

    • For over 40 years in these hills!

  • There’s a significant amount of women who make a living and provide for their families from the cannabis industry, and it’s not just outdoor guerilla farming or prancing around in high heels to cannabis festivals and boutiques.
    They aren’t just grow-hos or simply supplementing their partners’ income.
    They have their own spot, and they run it. They know what it takes to keep a plant alive, navigate the variables that affect every aspect of growing a quality product, and budget their finances and time to pay for the overhead and stay in the competitive game, in addition to being compensated adequately in the industry.
    Also, processing cannabis is one of the last remaining jobs that’s truly a hands-on cottage industry. There’s a reason why most trimmers are female–because it’s considered an “auxiliary” job ( the excuses that men’s hands are “too big and clumsy for the job”, or “I’m too busy to sit down all day for days”), and it provides employment that’s flexible and pays enough to accommodate a mother’s busy schedule. She can work at home (or elsewhere) and still be able to pick up the kids from school, etc.

  • That poster was from a time when women were real women. Hardworking, honest ,faithful and God fearing women. Seeing this poster with a Marijuana leaf on the arm of this patriotic symbol is disturbing. And down right wrong in my opinion. My grandmother bless her heart would be in protest. Along with all who lived through those times. Make your own symbolism. Don’t disgrace this true patriot symbol.

    • take your meds Guest. its just a blog. relax. fine something real to be up set about if feel the need to be upset.

  • Just want to say thank you Kym for posting about this! I know there are so many women kicking ass in this industry and I often fear where my generation will take this industry(I love how the small and respectfully previous generations conduct business and I chose to associate with people decades older than me) but with constant discussion about the issues there is a chance it will go in a better direction.

  • I have done manual farm labor in my time and my personal experience was that the women doing the same work did just as well. Attitude means more than muscles.

    There were lazy guys who were worth nothing despite their muscular strength, they just didn’t work.

    Of course, there were lazy women too.

    Anyway, claims that men do some things better than women due to more muscle power do not impress me very much.

    • I feel the woman’s plants were/are more taken care of on an individual level and came out with more crystals at the end, plants were about half the size aprrox. 1-2 pounders but the quality is always top notch. Just in my experience

  • My mother was the hardest working woman I have ever known. Her hands bore the scars of hard farm work. In fact I owe her everything for instilling in us boys the value of a hard days work. Her forearms from milking cows by hand and the strength she had was iconic of a hardworking faithful mother of days gone by. I’m an advocate for our women. Just not an advocate of this Marijuana movement. Just my opinion.

  • Seems to me the grow hoes fair pretty well. Nice clothes. Fresh hair. Nice cars. Except they do have to deal with their shit head grower “boyfriends”.

    • I try not to but every time I hear the term “Grow hoe” I get upset.

      First, I acknowledge there are women who exchange sex for financial security. Frankly, this is not the worst thing I’ve ever heard someone do in my life. It seems fairly innocuous especially since in most cases the man seems aware of the trade he is making. If two adults want to do that, it is not something I’m going to get worked up about.

      Secondly, (and this really ticks me off) there doesn’t seem to be an equal term for the man who gives money to the woman for sex. Why the heck not? If what she is doing is bad, why isn’t what he is doing bad?

      Thirdly, the term seems to be applied to every attractive woman who is with a grower. How in the heck does everyone seem to reach inside that relationship and know what’s going on. Attractive women and young men don’t fall in love?

      Please do not use that term on my website. I know it is in common use and I don’t blame people in particular for using it. But I don’t like terms that denigrate people as large groups.

      • selective focus. people talk shit about grow bros all the time. your blog has comments trashing male growers in general every day. look for it. all they want is young girls to work for them and they dont give a shit about anything or anybody other than their greed. its a staple of talking shit about the “black market”, and you participate.

        • Having a terrible opinion about growers as a whole is one thing. Calling them a stereotypical slur name is another. Opinion, including ones that I disagree vehemently with are allowed. Slurs and insult words categorize people don’t allow for intelligent conversation. They are edited out.

          • pretty lame, kym.

            you really hate everything about the slur but wish there was more of it for men. and your comment about “attractive women” is just as stupid. over time ive come to realize youre very juvenile. youd make a great grade school teacher, and i mean that in a good way.

            • Writing unsigned notes is so very mature? ;>

              I don’t wish more slurs for men. I’m pointing out that the slur is sexist precisely because only the woman is singled out for censure.

              I don’t understand what you mean by the rest of your response.

      • im with you. i dont like it either. these people need someone to look down on. glade i dont live in there skin.

  • The only women making money off of the damn shit is…1- the wives of the biggot assholes that get away with growing thousands of plants in multiple properties and 2- the damn foreign women and men who do not belong here and taking thousands of dollars of our American money and taking it out if the country… along with taking the trim work away from the people in Humboldt county who need the money more than the foreign people who make a mess of our home place. And making it hard for the locals with families to support like me who lost our legitimate lively hoods and have no choice but to try and get trim work….but only to be denied work because the fucking foreigners take it ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • nora you might be the most misinformed persons on this blog. most all of what you saif is a lie. your option backed up by what. you have no choice and who fault is that. a trimer ? realy.stop being a victim and get i live. hope you dont have kids.

  • Honeydew Bridge Chump

    Real Women aren’t insurgent growers.

    Real Women raise children…

    Grow chicks aren’t women, but media manipulated clones that don’t flower.

    Humans don’t grow dope.

    Surrender and get help all grow garbage.

    Wrecking communties, harming Children, and destroying lives for federal reserve notes makes you worthless in the spiritual realm.

    There isn’t a large enough comet hitting the planet to return all the grower karma.

    Go back to your slums!

    • honeydew your funny. the spiritual realm. lol i read your post. [edit]. you dont know shit about spritual grouth or you would write stuff like you do. get some help. maybe med. [edit]

  • Without women, who would make the brownies? JUST KIDDING!

  • IMO, the main point of the article is created for justifying that women will face the same tax brackets as men. Funny how that works.

  • North coast has been demonopolized.
    Without the environmental monopoly farming will cease. The only reason its been successful is because it was illegal everywhere else. Now all of California is open game. Lettuce prices by 2020.

  • One way you can tell a hard working farmer woman is by looking at her hands. They won’t look like most other women’s at all. They look like men’s, so I’ve been told.

    • at the risk of sounding sexist i dont want my wife mother daughter to have to work hard in the fields to get by. i dont know any women that like getting old fast being out in sun. thats why i made sure they had other options like school.

      • yeah the illuminati might get em if theyre outside. what a patriarch!

      • The only thing that would make me old fast is a desk job and being told what to do by a man. And if your wife, mother, or daughter does get an education most likely her boss will be male. Life is good!

  • BTW, Mendo is about to kick Humboldt’s ass! But then, the rest of the state will be sure to put Humboldt pot growers out of business, forever.
    Women, growing weed is NOT a sensible occupation!

  • The laws are being formed to benefit the rich people. Stuart bulie inventor of the wine cooler has 10 permtted grows on Bell Springs. Last week the board of supervisors passed a bunch of regulations that put his plans above everyone elses. Get rid of the people and let a few prosper. Sorry women, but nobody is going to make it except the few rich people who can afford to do it like walmart. Sad but true

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