Many women choosing careers in cannabis industry

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Thanks to changing federal and state regulations, the marijuana industry in California is booming. And now women are taking the lead and breaking through the "grass ceiling.

Weed, pot, marijuana, Mary Jane, no matter what you call it - the sale of legal cannabis is growing fast.

Industry leaders expect sales to soar from $2.5 billion in 2014 to as much as $8 billion by 2018 and women are staking claim to many of those new businesses.

"Women are natural healers," Andrea Unsworth said. "We're the people who are typically in your home when you are sick, you know you go to mom."

Unsworth owns Stashtwist, a cannabis delivery service in the East Bay. "It is more than a full-time job," Unsworth said. "You know, I am typically working 13 to 14 hours a day. And so, with having three children, there are trade-offs."

She's one of the many women leaving corporate jobs for careers in pot. "My background is actually in finance. I have an MBA and I worked for Moody's," Unsworth said.

California is just one many states now with a robust pot economy. Twenty three states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana; Alaska, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have legalized recreational use. There's a good chance Californians will vote this November on whether we should do the same.

Local entrepreneurs aren't waiting; they are ramping up for the possible boom in demand. "Women Grow is an organization that connects educates and empowers women in the legal marijuana industry," said Jazmin Hupp with Women Grow.

Hupp is leading the way. ABC7 News caught up with Hupp at her Oakland office.

"There are not many industries that are female led, and in this setting up of a brand new multi-billion dollar industry, we saw an opportunity to let women lead where they have never led before," Hupp said.

The group started in Colorado less than two years ago. "Now, we operate 35 chapters in the U.S. and Canada," Hupp added.

Women Grow is the largest national network of cannabis professionals, it estimates roughly 40 percent of the executives in pot companies are women.

Hundreds of women, and some men, went to network and learn, at a Women Grow event last month in Uptown Oakland.

The laws can be confusing. Many government agencies still view pot as a dangerous drug. But the department of justice has relaxed enforcement in states where medical marijuana is now legal. The move made it easier to set up cannabis businesses, but there are still a lot of legal obstacles.

Everything from banking to patents and trademarks can be a battle. Women Grow helps businesses navigate the bureaucracy.

Many of these attendees left ready to start to their own businesses. "I thought it was excellent. I think this is a great concept for women to get together. It's a predominately male industry, and we need to change that," cannabis entrepreneur Tiki Sha Ong said.

Another entrepreneur, Daisy Odim, added, "This is a really great way to show women that you can get involved. You can have a business in the cannabis industry."

Giving women the tools to smoke the competition.

Written and Produced by Ken Miguel.
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