A Q&A with cannabis entrepreneur, lawyer, and advocate Shanel Lindsay
According to a 2015 Newsweek article that rings incredibly relevant today in the slow but steady progression towards national cannabis legalization, women are moving into the pot business so quickly that they could make it the first billion-dollar industry that isn’t dominated by men.
Don’t believe it? Let’s consider the facts …
Pew’s October 2015 Marijuana Business Daily reader survey revealed that women in traditional U.S. business executive roles make up, on average, 22 percent of the executive workforce. On the flip side, women in U.S. cannabis business executive roles make up, on average, 36 percent of the executive workforce.
I’ve witnessed the energy of this participation in my own experience, and in speaking at industry events, attending networking events, and fielding inquiries from customers at the Kush Groove shop. More and more women are actively attending cannabis meetups and related community conversations, while groups like Women Grow, a Colorado-based organization with several state chapters across the country, focus on female leadership in the cannabis industry. Embedded in their mission statement, the organization’s primary goal is to turn the legal cannabis business into the first female-led, billion dollar industry. Sounds like an article I read somewhere.
Bottom line: this is an exciting time for women in the cannabis industry, with a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics indicating a “positive correlation between the presence of women in corporate leadership and performance.” With trends like these on the rise, it’s likely that we’ll see more and more women participating in and leading this industry. Which will benefit all of us.
To discuss this promising future, I sat down with Shanel Lindsay, founder and president of Ardent Cannabis, to speak on some of the issues impacting women entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry here in Boston.
You’re in the weed industry but you don’t sell weed. Talk to me about what you do and why you chose this route for cannabis entrepreneurship?
SL: I created a consumer device—a decarboxylator—it’s a tool that allows people to create any cannabis product in their own home for a fraction of the price. We also develop consumable products like capsules and edibles kits that help take the person from plant to end product in one step. For me this was born out of my own experiences and frustrations making accurate medicine for myself over the last 15 years. It just happens to be in the ancillary segment of the industry which means that we aren’t subject to the same regulations or federal prohibition of companies that actually touch the plant, though you better believe we still face many challenges.
Why focus on decarboxylation?
While decarboxylation might be a new term to some, it’s the fundamental process required to “activate” cannabis. It’s happening each time someone lights a joint, uses a vaporizer, or makes pot brownies. The problem is that these methods are very inefficient and lead to a waste of 30 to 70 percent of the available cannabinoids in the material. By providing people a precision process for decarboxylation, it not only saves an incredible amount of money, but streamlines a complex and smelly process and transforms it into something that even a brand new user can easily master.
Are there challenges to being a female entrepreneur in a field dominated by men?
Absolutely, and from a few different angles. Often times it’s an assumption that you somehow aren’t qualified, constantly having to flex your worth. You wouldn’t imagine how many times I had to convince someone that I am the inventor and owner and not a company rep. There’s also the “bikini bong babes” stereotypes that are still really pervasive, so as a female entrepreneur you have a challenge and opportunity to show a wider spectrum of the female cannabis experience.
What advice do you have for women, especially women of color, for getting in the weed game without selling weed?
Networking is huge. There are so many avenues and ways to be involved in this industry because it is still small. Going and meeting people in the space is the fastest way to understand the lay of the land and get involved with eventual partners and team members.
Send your letters, questions about cannabis, and emails to: [email protected]
Marcus Johnson-Smith is the co-founder of Kush Groove. He is also the founder of Clearwater Branding. You can follow Marcus on Instagram and Twitter @mjohnsonsmith and at his website: marcusjohnsonsmith.com