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Women Fight For Equal Representation Before Legalization In Illinois

Women Fight For Equal Representation Before Legalization In Illinois
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Women Fight For Equal Representation Before Legalization In Illinois

Women hold barely a quarter of high-ranking positions in cannabis. This Illinois women’s group is working to tip the scales.

Marijuana is one fastest growing industry in the United States and also one of the youngest. Unlike more established industries, cannabis gives women a unique chance to create a culture of gender equality. Illinois Women in Cannabis is a non-profit dedicated to connecting and educating women in legal weed. Today, the group works to empower women to pursue executive positions in Illinois’ young cannabis industry that could soon include a recreational weed market.

Illinois’ Expanding Cannabis Program

Illinois’ medical cannabis program got off to a rocky start. The Prairie State legalized medical cannabis in 2013, but patients couldn’t buy weed until 2015. Since then, the Illinois Senate has voted to give people suffering from opioid addiction access to medical marijuana. Additionally, two-thirds of Cook County, which includes Chicago, came out in support of legalizing weed.

Unfortunately, legislators have been slow to act on weed legalization, both medical and recreational. However, if legalizing weed went to a vote, it would most likely pass. But whether or not Illinois legalizes weed largely depends on who wins the gubernatorial election this November. Incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner, who has said he will veto adult use weed legislation, is running against Democrat J.B. Pritzker.

Pritzker has been vocal about legalizing recreational weed in Illinois. He said that as governor, he would work to include minorities and those affected by the War on Drugs in the cannabis industry post-legalization. Legalization along with diversification initiatives would be a boon for Illinois women in cannabis, and the industry on the whole.

This Group Empowers Female Cannabis Entrepreneurs

Like almost all billion dollar industries, women are underrepresented in cannabis. Specifically, women hold a little over a quarter of all executive positions in legal weed. This figure is down from 36 percent in 2015.

But what might be depressing figures for some have galvanized women in cannabis. In 2014, Dina Rollman, who works for cannabis cultivator Green Thumb Industries, founded Illinois Women in Cannabis. This grassroots organization hosts networking events for women and men. The events provide educational opportunities for people to learn about Illinois’ medical program. They also have a job posting forum to help women find employment.

“The mission of the organization is definitely to empower, mentor and provide opportunities for women in the industry because it’s an industry that’s too new to have a glass ceiling,” Vice President Erin Alexander told Green Rush Daily. Alexander is Associate General Counsel for Cresco Labs, a medical cannabis cultivation company. She is also Secretary of the Illinois Cannabis Bar Association.
Though focused on equipping women for positions of power in legal weed, this non-profit also spends a lot of its time educating the public. Through their awareness campaign, Illinois Women in Cannabis goes to public libraries to provide free information on their state’s medical cannabis program. This often means helping potential patients get medical marijuana cards and the medication they need.
Illinois Women in Cannabis sees now as the perfect time to explore and build a career in legal weed. “There are so many opportunities out there right now, not just within existing companies, but for entrepreneurs, for people looking to form their own companies and be their own bosses,” Alexander added. “Those opportunities are out there for women as well.”

Connecting Women To Cannabis Jobs and Education

Cannabis doesn’t have the patriarchal roots characteristic of sectors like finance and tech. Instead, groups like Illinois Women in Cannabis and Oregon’s weed business accelerator for women find that there are myriad opportunities for women to forge cannabis careers. They only need the industry connections to seize them.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, cannabis retail and cultivation sales topped $86 million and $71 million, respectively. If Illinois elects a democratic pro-cannabis governor this fall, its already profitable legal weed industry would skyrocket. And established businesswomen in weed would reap the benefits.

Illinois Women in Cannabis’ next event will be their annual Fall Harvest Celebration. Join them in October to celebrate women in weed and the fall cannabis harvest.

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