More than a quarter of all cannabis businesses in the United States are owned or were founded by women, according to the results of a new survey by Marijuana Business Daily. The survey found that in the cannabis sector, 26 percent are female-run firms, more than the 20 percent average of U.S. businesses as a whole that are owned or founded by women.
The percentage of cannabis companies owned or founded by women were found to vary significantly by sector. Women lead 43.3 percent of ancillary services firms, which include businesses like marketing agencies, law firms, and other companies that facilitate the cannabis industry. Women own or founded 33.3 percent of cannabis testing labs, 26.1 percent of cannabis retailers, and 25 percent of infused product making companies. Of cannabis investing companies, however, women make up just 11 percent of all owners or founders.
“Starting an ancillary services firm is generally considered less risky compared to launching a plant-touching business – like a dispensary or cultivation site – as these companies don’t engage in practices that violate federal law,” wrote Eli McVey of Marijuana Business Daily, regarding the wide variance by sector. “They also tend to require less upfront capital. And raising the money needed to launch a marijuana business may be particularly challenging for women given how few cannabis industry investment firms are run by women or employ female executives.”
A separate survey conducted by Marijuana Business Daily earlier this year found that women make up 36 percent of executive positions in the U.S. cannabis industry, including 63 percent of executive roles at testing labs, and 50 percent of leadership roles in companies that process infused products. The percentage of female executives in the cannabis industry dipped to 27 percent in an updated survey last month.
The relatively young cannabis industry may offer a lower barrier for entry and eliminate long-rooted industry insiders to give women opportunities for holding more prominent leadership roles. Earlier this year, Priscilla Vilchis, CEO of a cannabis growing and manufacturing company operating in Nevada, was the only minority woman to receive preliminary approval for licenses in Los Angeles County.
Women may also be more interested in cannabis. A 2017 study published in the Drug and Alcohol Journal found that the consumption of cannabis by women is on the rise.
“As the cannabis industry transitions more into the mainstream, the structure of marijuana companies has begun to resemble that of businesses in the traditional economy,” added McVey. “So it stands to reason, with women-owned businesses on the rise throughout the United States, that trend likely will continue throughout the marijuana industry.”
The Marijuana Business Daily survey was conducted anonymously online August 9-13 and involved responses from 567 self-identified cannabis industry senior executives and owners or founders.
So far, 29 U.S. states and Washington D.C. have legalized medical cannabis and eight have passed laws permitting adult use marijuana.