Seniors represent one of the fastest-growing groups of consumers who are interested in medical marijuana. But many women in this category are looking at the medical cannabis industry as a way to establish a career not yet entrenched in centuries of male-dominated businesses.
“In a lot of other industries, there are hundreds of years of history of who is successful and who is not, and there are glass ceilings to be broken,” said Nancy Whiteman, a co-owner of Wana Brands in Boulder, Colorado. “But there’s no norm here. Everyone is figuring it out together.”
The gateway to these career opportunities seems to be led by personal experience with medical marijuana. Jeanine Moss, 62, started her medical marijuana business after receiving a “shopping bag filled with opiates,” after undergoing hip surgery in 2014. The opioid painkillers made her feel uncomfortable, so she tried medical marijuana, which is legal in California and readily available close to her Marina del Rey home. Soon after, she disposed of her prescription pain medications.
Moss discovered many of her friends were also using medical marijuana. She said,
“Everyone was pulling baggies out of their Gucci and Louis Vuitton purses, and I thought, ‘Why are we sneaking around like guilty teenagers?’”
Moss launched AnnaBis, a product line of female-oriented cannabis accessories, ranging from smell-proof clutches to vape accessories. The company’s website also features a blog and travel guides for like-minded women looking for advice that pertains to their lifestyle.
Women in the cannabis industry is definitely a trend. In 2015, Marijuana Business Daily reported that 36 percent of executives in the cannabis industry were women, in contrast to 22 percent in other industries. But women over 50 are starting small businesses after careers in other businesses, and bringing transferable skills to those startups.
These are “smart businesswomen who see opportunities,” said John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of “Marijuana: A Short History.” According to Hudak, these entrepreneurial women, “have the type of background and skill sets that lend themselves to be highly useful in an industry like this: lobbying, consulting, finance, operations.”
The cannabis industry is still quite young, and often targets a demographic comfortable with recreational substances. But that strategy is changing in the face of new data that shows seniors are willing to give medical cannabis a try. One study published in December found that cannabis use among adults between ages 50 and 64 increased by almost 60 percent between 2006 to 2013, and use by those over 65 had grown 250 percent. For Frances Sue Taylor, 69, this presents an opportunity to curate cannabis goods for her demographic. She opened her own dispensary in California that is meant for adults over 50.
“If someone would have told me 12 years ago that I’d be an advocate for cannabis, I’d say, ‘You’ve been smoking too much,’” she said.
Her career before cannabis was as a Catholic school principal, and she admits that she used to think of marijuana as a “hard-core drug like crack or cocaine.” But now, she is gratified by the people she helps get well through medical cannabis. “My life is better than ever. I’m healthy, and I’m starting a new business at 69.”