Mary Jane. Mother plant. Only female plants make the buds needed to get you buzzed. So it seems natural that women could dominate the billion dollar marijuana industry.
In 1996 California was the first state to allow the medical use of marijuana with the passing of Prop 215. There are now five states, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington State, as well as Washington, DC which have legalized recreational, as well as medical, marijuana. 20 more states have legalized medical Mary Jane. It's an incredibly lucrative business, both for health and fiscal purposes, but in 2004 there weren't a lot of women working as growers.
We caught up with one of the women in CA who went from grunt to dealing with large volume dispensaries to chat herb and business.
What was your role in the business?
I was green and super young when I started. At the beginning it was all about shadowing my business partners who were very knowledgeable, discreet, and a little intimidating. So like any job I did the grunt work: potting, balancing the PH water levels, feeding, spraying, plant spotting, testing equipment and cleaning water wells.
As we grew into the farm I managed the life-cycle of the plants from babies to curated buds. Every eight weeks we had a new crop but every five weeks we were seeding for the next round. It goes quickly and like any business you're constantly managing what's going out and what's growing up. Plant production is a lot like event production. High stress, lots of moving pieces and equipment, and big pay days!
"Plant production is a lot like event production. High stress, lots of moving pieces and equipment, and big pay days!"
Six months into the business I was also managing the sales. Our business partner made some initial connections but since we all had the same product I started venturing out. I was eager, young, and a little naive, but it played well into my sales. I hit the pavement hard. I walked into dispensaries showed them samples, gave them notes, and high balled the product. Being a young and attractive lady in a male-dominated industry, I rocked at sales! Before long I did sales trips on my own and negotiated with large volume dispensaries in Oakland, LA, and SF.
How did you get into it?
Love! Love at first sight kind of love. My friend dragged me to a house party and the moment I locked eyes with this man we were hooked. But our romance was suppose to be quick since I was moving to NYC in five weeks. I told him not to fall in love.... I ended up leaving but only got as far as Santa Fe when he sent me an email and a business plan in Excel. He laid out his plan to build a farm, make loads of cash and travel the world with me. He was smitten and I was intrigued.
I put NYC on hold and flew back to him and started what was the beginning of an incredible journey and the story that is my life.
What kept you involved?
Love, money, and seeing the world! I was 22, it was 2004 and I had never considered I could be a self-made woman. I am fiercely independent so the appeal of creating my own lifestyle and product at such a young age was an incredible opportunity.
We both developed side projects throughout our partnership which helped with the stress and anxiety of our business. As a freelance florist I was exposed to a new side of luxury and I was hooked. Flowers and event design were ultimately the driving force to me leaving the farm business.
Was there any point where you were worried about the legality of what you were doing?
Yes and no!
No, because we always stayed within our permit limits when growing. But everything else we dealt with was like living in a constant state of extreme paranoia!
Were there any ‘oh sh*t’ moments? I’m about to get arrested or someone I know just got raided?
Many! I am actually considering writing a book about all of them. We were blackmailed, a few of my buyers got busted, and in a state of utter paranoia my ex partner had me cut down an entire crop. I remember that day thinking to myself this is it. I am done. I had a stash of cash and quickly made plans to leave SF. I had enough and was ready for my NY experience.
When people asked you 'what do you do,' how did you respond?
Creative Services! Once we had the garden going I started freelancing as a florist. I really immersed myself and learned everything I could about plants, flowers, and business. I got a few steady freelance gigs that helped me stay connected to the outside world.
There aren’t many women in the weed biz, especially a decade ago, what was that like?
Oh, I love this question. I realized early on that being a women in my position was a huge asset. It was unexpected, surprising, and refreshing. It showed in my sales and gave me an edge. At times it was intimidating when negotiating price per lb. with five guys in a warehouse, a guard and cameras everywhere, but ultimately my product was superb and boutique. Having multiple businesses since then I actually prefer being a minority.
What do you think decriminalizing weed would look like nationwide? is this something that’s important to you?
Absolutely. We have got to pull out all those young men and women who are serving time for non -violent offenses, possession, or who have been targeted because of their socio-economic situation. Our laws surrounding marijuana are archaic, unjust, and need to be amended.
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