Women, $ and Weed

They came wearing stiletto heels, running shoes, cowboy boots, ballet flats and even high heel sneakers. They were hard-working professionals, most of them mothers, gathered around a fake campfire at the five-star Cordillera Lodge in the Rocky Mountains. Despite the occasional rain shower, they roasted marshmallows for s’mores, howled with laughter, and soaked naked in the Jacuzzi while eating crème Brule.

It was May 15, the first night of the Leadership Summit organized by Women Grow, a group whose mission is to train—or “cultivate”—women to be leaders of the cannabis industry, which the Arcview research group has called “the fastest growing industry in the U.S.”

Leaders of Women Grow

Leaders of Women Grow

Now that marijuana is medically legal in 23 states plus the District of Columbia and fully legal in four, Women Grow asserts that it’s time for women to claim their place.

The Summit sold out quickly, drawing 121 women from 20 states, ranging from 23 to 68. They included lawyers, doctors, farmers, dispensary owners, research scientists, financiers, and C.E.O.’s of companies, one of which is valued at $40 million.

Every conversation began: “What do you do in the industry?” By day they attended panels and made deals, and by night they let loose—dancing with abandon and gathering in groups to try new marijuana strains, massage oil and edibles.

The heart and soul of Women Grow are its founders, Jane West and Jazmin Hupp, two bold women in their thirties whom some have called “genius entrepreneurs.”

Jane West

Jane West

West was formerly Amy Dannemiller, who, for eight years, ran the western division of the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine. In 2014, in her off time, and with pot legal in Colorado, she began producing monthly cannabis dinners under the name Jane West. When CNBC interviewed her for a special about marijuana in America, she said, “I’m a successful business professional, a mother of two young boys, and a regular cannabis user, and that’s normal.”   At her company, she said, she’d received accolades and promotions, “so my cannabis use didn’t affect my job performance.” But when she appeared on national TV smoking a joint, she was fired.

She became Jane West full time, and started Women Grow with Hupp to educate and empower women in the industry.

Hupp, wearing a red dress showing cleavage, said at the Summit that

Jazmin Hupp

Jazmin Hupp

she was “raised by hippies,” and grew up with cannabis being a normal part of adult life. After college, she started six companies in retail, e-commerce and media, gaining expertise in product design, branding, and customer experience.

At the opening dinner, Hupp welcomed people, saying her secret goal is that “you lead this new, billion-dollar industry. Its about fucking time we led something!” There were hoots, catcalls, and applause. Hupp told the women to get to know each other, “because to get to the next level, we need a network of women you like and trust.”

Saturday morning there was yoga and a hike, during which Daniela Vergara, PhD, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado, said she’s doing research to map the marijuana genome. She needs $75,000 to fund her project, “and I don’t know how to raise money,” she said.

Advice came that morning from a panel on “Creating Your Fund-raising Deck.” Jessica Geran of Dutchess Capital and Emily Pahxia of Poseidon Asset management, the “financial girls” in short black dresses and gold jewelry, spoke about how to prepare data and persuade investors to sign on.

There were panels on how to build a national brand, “kick ass as a conference speaker,” and post instagrams that will be “thumb stoppers.” A compelling panel was “Cannabis for Aging,” with Sue Taylor, 68, an African-American who was formerly a Catholic school principal. She’s now the Commissioner on Aging for Alameda County, Ca, and educates seniors about the “healing properties of cannabis.”

Sue Taylor

Sue Taylor

Taylor said doctors are seeking her out “because they know the medicine they’re prescribing for senior care is not working, and cannabis that’s not psychoactive can help.” In many care facilities, she said, patients cry and scream at night, but with proper dosage of cannabis, “they’re happier and sleep better.” She’s also seen it alleviate symptms of arthritis and Parkinson’s disease.

Heather Manus, who goes by “Nurse Heather” and has blonde braids that fall below her knees, threw her arms around Taylor. “I love what you’re doing,” she said. “Nurse Heather” is on the

Nurse Heather

Nurse Heather

board of the American Cannabis Nurses Association, which has 3000 members who’re working to establish cannabis-nursing as a specialty in nursing schools.

At a party that night, women danced full tilt, snaking about the room while a D.J. played “Smooth Operator.” They made a conga line, then formed a circle and cheered as Sue Taylor, in a red blazer and spike heels, shimmied to the floor, and “Nurse Heather” swung her braids above her head. West said it was great being able to “dance and not get hit on.”

The last day, as people rolled their bags out the door, West and Hupp said the Summit had been more successful than they’d dreamed, and they were confident it would have a strong impact. Vergara, the biologist, had met two investors who want to help fund her research. Many participants said that, to their surprise, they’d had more fun, were less inhibited, and could create more business when the group was all women.

West asked Hupp, “Should we have men at our next summit?”

In a second, they answered in unison: “No.”

This article appeared, in slightly different form, on Fortune.com







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16 thoughts on “Women, $ and Weed

  1. Baillee Serbin

    I just discovered that the Tincture of weed/ indica is very good for insomnia. And coconut creme and weed is excellent to rub on sore parts of your body, especially for arthritis.

  2. Alex Auerbach

    As a geezer, I’m delighted to see that someone is focusing on “Cannabis for Aging.” But as a guy, I was taken aback at the closing comment that the attendees “in unison” rejected the idea of having men attend their next Summit. Can you imagine the reaction to a “Men of Marijuana” business networking group declaring that women were unwelcome to attend? We have women leading Fortune 500 corporations, flying combat missions, holding 20% of the seats in the House and Senate, and making up half or more of the student bodies at MBA programs and medical schools. Isn’t the “keep out the boys” mentality a bit outdated?

    1. Sara Davidson

      Hey Alex,
      thanks for your thoughts. The reason they want and need a separate women’s group is that women have been pretty much excluded from the illegal marijuana trade for decades, and fear the same may happen after legalization. Think of it like the black congressional congress. They do business with the whole congress but need a separate group for support. Same is true for women in this instance. They do business with men, but really need support from other females.

      Plus, they couldn’t have enjoyed the freedom to strip and jump in the jacuzzi, and dance without inhibitions, if men had been present.

      And, by the way, 20% of seats in the house and senate is pathetic! It should be close to 50%. When I visited Afghanistan, I learned that by law, 50% of the elected lawmakers must be women. And that’s a country where women have it way tougher than in the west.

      Still, I love to hear your opinions. And check out the comment by Spenser Havelik, who’s “glad” that they don’t allow men at the summit. Not sure his reasoning. But I welcome all angles and sides to the question/s. So please keep yours coming.

  3. Gail D Storey

    Fascinating post, Sara! Miss you! Porter and I are about halfway through our 6-month Continental Divide Trail adventure from Mexico to Canada, you might get a kick out of my blog about it (via my website). Hope all else is well!

  4. Kathy goodman

    I loved this blog. I felt I was there and could feel the vitality. Great writing!

  5. Greg

    Hi Sara, love reading your interesting stuff. As a “man” I feel like I am “listening in” on some conspiracy to overthrow.
    But I am interested in what YOU think about the controversy of legal pot. As a baby boomer of “that age” been there done that ALL that. As I recall, rather hazily, there were many different reactions by folks to the same stuff. In other words, the psyche, spirit, and personal background seem to have some impact on how it affects an individual. Some may just have a “light mellow” feeling while others may have high anxiety and psychotic reactions. Slippery slope, I think.

  6. Bahira Sugarman and Shaya Isenberg

    Thank you, Sara, for this inspiring, uplifting report!
    Bahira Sugarman and Shaya Isenberg, the Aleph Sage-ing Program

  7. Judy Gorenc

    As a 70 year old cannabis user from the days before Paraquat, to being a card carrying member of MMJ generation I have been amazed that finally common sense appears to prevail. I am most interested in how the use of MMJ is having an effect on the partying habits of today’s youth. Less use of hard drugs and even less use of marihuana itself seems to be one of the results of legalizing it. Is this because it is hard to rebel against that which was formerly referred to as the Establishment, when your preferred form of rebellion has become acceptable? That women my age spearheaded the movement makes perfect sense. We who had to do it all in the wake of women’s lib have acquired painful and often debilitating conditions that often are stress related. Having one’s favorite remedy for this now available legally is a dream come true. And women benefiting financially is just the icing on the cake. I look forward to new breakthroughs in the field that will ensure that the quality of our lives will improve rather than decline as we age. We who were NEVER going to get old!

  8. Charlene Reiff Post author

    I am a Realtor in SE FL and possibly can help growers find land here, unless they need to grow inside under specific conditions. But the plants can probably do very well outside here in our tropical climate. Let me know if anyone needs my help…

    All the best,
    Charlene Reiff, Realtor

  9. Sara Davidson Post author

    Hi Sara ,
    What a wild and wonderful lark you had at this retreat. Is this the Cordillera Lodge at Edwards CO ? I am glad you do not let men participate.

  10. Christine Clayworth

    Your article on Women, $ & Weed was excellent and so timely. I am a 63 year old female who owns a 27 acre parcel in the northern CA mountains; I have rented the property to growers for years and it always struck me what a male dominated field it seems to be. When I first began renting it out 15 years ago I had no idea what a goldmine it was for growing pot. Once I figured out what my tenants were doing and after kicking out quite a few for doing it I decided to set some ground rules because whatever claims tenants made (“I don’t like pot” or “I’m not interested in growing”) everyone I have ever rented to has grown marijuana. So I began requiring that everyone have the proper paperwork and abide by the local county regulations, which legalizes medical marijuana but of course the local laws are in conflict with federal regulations. But as long as there are asset forfeiture laws on the books I don’t want to lose my property so I have learned to do property inspections frequently, counting the plants and reviewing the paperwork. When I first bought the property Bush was in office and helicopters would routinely fly over the area and bust property owners. Since Obama has been in office this happens much less frequently. But it’s really struck me over the years that the tenants who show up to rent my land are alway men. And it would really piss me off that while I struggled to pay the mortgages (there are 2 houses on the properties), property taxes, insurance, etc. (there is often a negative cash flow) my tenants could pull off $350,000 in a season. And more often than not, when they leave, the property is a disaster, which is why I charge a very high deposit (which rarely covers the damages left behind). So where are the women? I wondered. And now I know. This is a great field for women to be in, on just about every level. Thanks for clueing me in–I am reassured!

  11. Elizabeth Quigley

    Very interesting report! I have smoked since my 20’s and had a strong career as a special educator. When ‘accused’ of being a hippie, I always said, ” Of course I am! What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?” (attributing that quote to Elvis Costello). How about writing about events like this before you attend? Let us know when these things are happening. I would have loved to attend.
    Elizabeth A. Quigley, Ed.S.

  12. Deb Galarza

    Are there any projects out in Northern California where women are offering the opportunity to learn everything about the business? I am contemplating the business in about a year and need to learn how to grow, cultivate, licensing, etc. Doing it legal. Conferences? Events? Meetings? I will be out that way late August, early September and I would love to meet with some of you and discuss my entrepreneureship.

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