Advice from Successful Women on How to Break Into the Cannabis Industry

Table of contents

  1. Emily Fisher — CEO, Leafwell
  2. Sarah Locklund — Director of Outreach and Partnerships, Leafwell
  3. Umarah Mughnee – Outreach Marketing Manager
  4. More Ways Women Can Find Jobs in Cannabis
  5. The Future of Women in the Cannabis Industry

If you’re a woman thinking about making the career switch to the cannabis industry, you’re not alone. In fact, a survey by cannabis recruiting platform Vangst, found that 38.6 percent of respondents were female, and 43.3 percent of respondents said women constituted the majority of their companies. This includes Leafwell, where the majority of our team (including our CEO) are women.

More important to note, however, might be the fact that the cannabis industry has a higher percentage of women executives than the national average combining other industries. A survey from Marijuana Business Daily found that in 2017, roughly 26.9 percent of executive positions in the cannabis industry were held by women.

Breaking into the cannabis industry doesn’t have to be  harder than launching any other career. Networking, educating yourself on the industry, and growing your resume are still the best tactics to landing a job. Meet three women who are thriving in the cannabis industry and get their best advice for how you can make the cannabis career switch, too.

Emily Fisher — CEO, Leafwell

Leafwell’s CEO, Emily Fisher, brings a wealth of professional and life experience to her executive position. For Fisher, a personal health crisis was the impetus behind her interest in cannabis.

She shares, “In 2011 I was diagnosed with breast cancer – a diagnosis that changed my view on health.  That’s when I learned about cannabis and the endocannabinoid system (ECS). After battling cancer and looking into alternative ways to optimize health, I found out that cannabis works to nourish our endocannabinoid system, and that is the reason it’s a highly versatile medication with a wide range of effects that can be used for different purposes. It’s literally a pharmacy in a plant.”

Fisher channeled her newfound knowledge of cannabis to dive into the industry five years after her diagnosis. “In 2016 I began working with a medical cannabis clinic in California, and through my work spoke to dozens of patients and heard how cannabis was helping them,” Fisher reveals.

Her experience with patients was emotionally challenging but ultimately elucidated the need for people to have safe and legal access to cannabis medicine. Our CEO shares, “I came across burn victims, pediatric patients, veterans, cancer patients, patients of all ages, suffering from all kinds of conditions that cannabis was helping. The stories were heart-wrenching, and for many, cannabis was a last resort and an act of desperation.  It was this desperation that propelled them forward into uncharted territory; getting access to cannabis was a huge challenge for many.”

The following year, in 2017, Fisher endured another health crisis which again changed her view on medicine and magnified the need for patients to have supervised access to medical marijuana. Fisher reveals, “I ended up in the ICU needing blood transfusions and an operation. I decided to try cannabis while in the hospital to help with the pain; it helped almost instantly and was an enormous relief. After a week in the hospital, I was released and went to the dispensary to get more products. I bought several different types of products and found none of them gave me the relief that the previous tincture had. In pain and desperately wanting to avoid painkillers, I ended up trying an edible and throwing up all night.”

Fisher’s relief from a specific tincture and her problematic experience with an edible highlights the need for physicians to be trained in cannabis medicine and able to recommend the right products for each individual. Even more powerfully, everything she endured and triumphed over inspired Fisher to found Leafwell that same year in 2017.

She explains, “These experiences, my own personal experience, and the stories from hundreds of patients I came in contact with over those three years, really were the inspiration for Leafwell. This plant had the versatility and amazing potential to help so many people, but there were huge challenges around access, information, education, and research.”

Leafwell was founded upon these pillars and has a driving mission that Fisher encapsulates:

“Leafwell was created to meet the needs of patients and those wanting to use cannabis to optimize their health needs. Our platform connects you to a licensed provider in your state in minutes, along with evidence-based information, and resources so that you can explore cannabis as a medicine with confidence.”

As Leafwell grows along with the cannabis industry, Fisher envisions major changes to how we view healthcare. She says, “I believe that cannabis will be used more and more by millions of people worldwide who are seeking not only alternatives to harsher pharmaceutical medications for their chronic pain and anxiety, but also for many people looking to achieve their everyday health and wellness goals.

I also believe that cannabis’ versatility and its interaction with the ECS — the human body’s “supercomputer” or “switchboard” which speaks to various receptor systems in our bodies — could help us get a step further towards one of healthcare’s big goals: personalized medicine.”

With the long-term goal of personalized medicine in mind, Fisher offers solid tips to other women seeking to build a career in cannabis:

“My advice to other women who are interested in the cannabis industry is to figure out how you can bring your skills and apply them to this industry. It’s still in its infancy; there’s huge potential to make a difference and shape the future. Seek smart people that complement your skills. It takes different skills (and perspectives) to run a successful company. Diversity is a strength.”

Emily Fisher

Sarah Locklund — Director of Outreach and Partnerships, Leafwell

As director of outreach and partnerships at Leafwell, Sarah Locklund is not only in the cannabis business but in the business of people. She describes how she broke into the cannabis industry by channeling the power of her connections.

“I had just come back from a 6-month, volunteer-driven trip to South America, and was looking to break into holistic wellness when I met someone who worked in the cannabis industry. They made an introduction and the next thing I knew I was moving to Pennsylvania from Illinois as the Community Outreach Manager for a major organization.”

Locklund’s career path in cannabis has been challenging but rewarding. She shares, “It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but countless hours of educating community members and helping them get their medical cards, presenting to medical professionals, meeting with politicians and public officials, and building marketing campaigns with barebones resources gave me the connections and skills that I needed to progress.”

Now in a position of leadership at Leafwell, Locklund has much to offer women who are interested in succeeding in the industry. She advises, “First, learn as much as you can about cannabis! There is so much to know and there are endless resources to learn. There is no excuse to not have a solid understanding of the plant and how it works with our bodies.”

Even more important, Locklund says, is perseverance: “Second, don’t stop when it becomes challenging. This is an industry of startups, and the answers are not always going to be obvious. It is going to test you mentally and push you to your limits, but that is how you know you are growing and learning.”

Ultimately, the most essential element of success may be self-esteem. “Third, know your worth,” Locklund stresses. “You are just as effective and productive as everyone else. Don’t let anyone make you feel inferior, including yourself, and always exude confidence.”

Sarah Locklund

Umarah Mughnee – Outreach Marketing Manager

Based in Washington, D.C., Umarah Mughnee is Leafwell’s Outreach Marketing Manager and a graduate of Georgetown University. She shares, “I broke into the industry in a pitch competition for the National Cannabis Festival in 2017. From there my curiosity in cannabis blossomed because I realized that there was so much to learn about the industry. I then started documenting my experiences with different cultivars which led me to start writing for Leafly as a freelancer.”

Mughnee’s freelance writing eventually grew into a full-time position at Leafwell. She explains, “Before Leafwell, I worked at several different digital marketing agencies as a strategist. Combining my skills learned from agency work and working with a few cannabis clients on some ad-hoc projects, I arrived as the Outreach Marketing Manager with Leafwell.”

Mughnee, who received her undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Howard University, is now immersed in the cannabis industry as well as the history and philosophy behind the plant. She asserts, “Cannabis with intention is a very powerful thing. The more I learn about it, the more I’m realizing how effective it is and how ridiculous the propaganda is around it. There can never be enough female voices surrounding cannabis.”

As a woman of color, Mughnee’s interests in the cannabis industry go even deeper. She states, “With Black people in the US more likely to get arrested than white people for cannabis possession, it’s important for me to pay it forward any way I can with a social equity lens.”

Umarah Mughnee

More Ways Women Can Find Jobs in Cannabis

Networking

In any industry, networking should always be a focus of your professional life. It’s how you get to know people who know people, and that’s how you get your name out there. Building relationships is an essential first step to success, especially in such a new industry.

The cannabis industry is unique in many ways. One of those ways is that most of those who work in the industry are also activists who fought for it to exist in the first place. Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s not room for newcomers, it just means there are a lot of respected names out there you should make a point to get to know.

Networking can happen anywhere, but the two best places are in person and virtual events. Since the pandemic, more and more virtual networking events have popped up, especially in the cannabis industry. Now, trade shows, medical conferences and other industry events will once again be held in person, but virtual networking is here to stay.

Aside from in person and online networking events, you should also take advantage of networking sites like LinkedIn, and even a few cannabis-specific networks like WherezHemp and LeafWire.

Cannabis-Specific Job Boards

When it comes to finding a job, you might have some luck with traditional job boards like Indeed and SimplyHired. However, you’re going to find more opportunities if you use a cannabis industry specific job board or recruitment agency.

THC Staffing

The THC Staffing group is a cannabis industry recruiting agency where you can upload your resume and employers can upload job listings. The company aims to help connect the right businesses with the right employees and offer help to both newcomers and current industry professionals looking to advance their careers.

Women of Color in Cannabis (WOCC)

This company is unique in the fact that it’s focused specifically on ensuring the cannabis industry remains open and friendly to women and persons of color. Partnered with THC Staffing, Quality Control Analytics, and Joint Venture & Co., they have created CannaCareers, which was created to provide professional development resources offering job sourcing, education and more.

Student Marijuana Alliance for Research & Transparency (StudentMMJ)

The traditional route into most careers is through a college education, but because the cannabis industry is so new and in some places still not legal, opportunities for a formal education in cannabis is limited. Many online education outlets have popped up in the cannabis space to fill this need, and StudentMMJ offers online education and connection to the handful of university programs that are currently available.

Vangst

A cannabis recruiting and staffing agency, Vangst offers a place to find cannabis industry jobs, build your network online, and grow your career. They provide news, reports, and interviews with industry experts; truly aiming to be a one-stop-shop for the job hunter or the cannabis business looking to hire. They also hold virtual career fairs, which work much like an in-person job fair and allow you to network “in person” so to speak.

Volunteering and Internships

Nothing beats having experience under your belt. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to gain this experience, even if you’re new to the cannabis industry. If you’re finding it hard to get someone to hire you for a paid role because of a lack of experience, search for an internship or a volunteer position to start out with instead.

Smaller companies and nonprofits are often underfunded and rely on volunteers and unpaid interns to get things done. If you’re not in dire financial need, this is a great route to get you where you want to be.

However, if you need immediate income, searching for a paid internship or entry level job might be the best place to start. The goal here is to build your experience. Whether that is by volunteering in the role you want to start off in, or getting an entry level position and moving up, it all amounts to molding the resume you want to present to your future employers.

The Future of Women in the Cannabis Industry

The cannabis industry continues to rapidly expand,and this will continue to create new jobs. If you’re thinking about getting into the industry, now is the time. Entering the cannabis industry while it is still in its earliest years will provide solid footing to grow your career over time.

So far, the cannabis industry has been a successful place for motivated women, so don’t doubt yourself even with a lack of experience. The industry is new, so few people can say they have five years, let alone a decade or more of experience. Now is the time to build your career in cannabis and grow with the fledgling industry.

Leafwell’s virtual clinic is open and our doctors, many of whom are women, are here to meet with you. Reach out today and get started on your application for a medical marijuana card.

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