While many entrepreneurs looking to get into the cannabis industry are women—including dispensary owners, bakers, lounge owners—the changing state of the laws make for a lot of bureaucratic uncertainty.
Women Grow is a networking group that helps newcomers navigate those legal pitfalls, bringing together women who work above board and those who are operating in the grey market at monthly events. It started in the US but now has chapters in Toronto, Vancouver, and Victoria.
"There's thousands of women meeting across North America talking about cannabis entrepreneurship," said Lisa Campbell, chairwoman of the Toronto Women Grow branch.
Campbell said much of the medical marijuana industry in Canada was shaped by women, pointing out the first medical dispensary in the country, the BC Compassion Club Society, was founded by Hilary Black. However, she said women, who are typically small business owners, are being cut out of the industry because of prohibition, as most licensed producers are male-dominated.
"We are crushing it but we're not being included in legalization," she said.
Meanwhile, women who are starting their own businesses are "making all these amazing products that technically aren't legal."
Campbell said what's happening the US states such as Colorado and California serve as a blueprint for the emerging market in Canada. She hopes to see Canada adopt an approach that gives different small and medium-sized businesses licenses, allowing them to compete in the market.