Legal Pot Could Be the First Billion-Dollar Industry Led by Women

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Leah Maurer (front row 2nd from left) and the Women Grow crew

More women are cultivating cannabis careers than ever before. As a matter of fact the emerging commercial cannabis industry isn’t just hurriedly accumulating women as it blossoms—it could actually be led by women. Newsweek recently ran a cover story about the trend. Women are moving into the pot business so quickly that they could make it the first billion-dollar industry that isn’t dominated by men, the mag predicts.

It is a female plant after all, laughs Leah Maurer an accomplished pot activist. Maurer co-founded one of the fastest-growing marijuana business groups in the nation—the Portland, Oregon chapter of Women Grow. She and co-founder Sara Batterby are dedicated to the idea that women should play a leading role in the marijuana industry. The group they started now has 30 chapters nationwide and counting. Maurer’s husband Travis Maurer is also an activist—helping spearhead Oregon’s successful marijuana legalization initiative, Measure 91.

“The cannabis industry is the next great industry in the state of Oregon and eventually the country, Maurer says. “I think it’s important that women have a strong voice in this industry to increase both diversity and just make it better overall!”

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Leah Maurer with her husband and family. Pic from The Oregonian

Maurer discovered her voice while working for marijuana reform in 2013. She helped found New Approach Oregon—the organization that drafted and campaigned for Measure 91. She also helped start the activist group Show Me Cannabis in Missouri to make accessing marijuana easier and safer.

“As a mother of 3 it’s important to me that marijuana be brought off the streets—out of the black market where it’s easily accessible to children and teens. And brought into a regulated market where it’s tested and dispensed to adults,” she says. “It’s clear that treating marijuana as a crime has failed and we need a new approach to legalizing cannabis.”

Maurer founded Moms for YES on Measure 91, a now secret Facebook group, in August of 2014 seeking that new approach. The entirely grassroots effort, comprised of mothers and parents across Oregon, quickly grew to more than 1,100 members. It played a pivotal role in the legalization of marijuana across the state.

“I’ve been told by the executive director of Measure 91 and many others that we were the secret weapon that the opposition never expected. Our group was pivotal in the passage of the measure,” Maurer says.

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Women Grow Portland’s Summer Social at a historic home in Dunthorpe owned by activist Vanessa Storelli. photo: Sara Holmes

Despite its illegal federal status, the marijuana business is one of the nation’s newest and fastest-growing industries, reports Time. “Regulated weed (medical and recreational) made $2.7 billion in nationwide revenue in 2014 alone, up from $1.5 billion in 2013 (medical only, the first recreational shops weren’t open in Washington and Colorado until January 2014). By 2019, the pot sold in all states and districts with legalization is projected to reach nearly $11 billion yearly, according to estimates by ArcView Market Research, an Oakland, California-based pot-focused investor network and market research company.”

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As cannabis legalization continues women are assuming more roles in the industry—doctors, nurses, lawyers, chemists, chefs, marketers, investors, accountants and professors—Newsweek points out. However, unlike the traditional American workplace where women earn 77 cents to every dollar made by a man, the burgeoning cannabis industry offers weed-friendly women an equal paycheck. Plus it’s providing many with the opportunity to change minds and public policy while leading the charge.

“I’m the typical soccer mom. I have three boys and am president of the PTA. I’m not the stoner stereotype,” Maurer says. “I think there are many others in the U.S. like myself who are not out of the ‘cannabis closet’ just yet. But it’s happening. With organizations like Moms for YES on Measure 91 and Women Grow we are validating and normalizing this movement and the industry more and more each day.”

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(L-R) Vanessa Storelli, Women Grow founders Leah Maurer and Sara Batterby and co-founder of Cascadia Labs Ashley Ramona Preece

The WeedBlog’s Johnny Green reports that the last Women Grow event in Portland aimed at normalizing pot, a summer social held at activist Vanessa Storelli’s historic home in Dunthorpe, was a smashing success. It was “very popular and heavily attended,” he commented.

“It was absolutely amazing having so many wonderful, chill, beautiful, respectful people over,” Storelli tells us about the event. “I’ll throw a party for a bunch of stoners over a bunch of drunks any day!”

Storelli and Maurer are working on a series of #normalize parties/educational events with the focus of breaking down stereotypes. The goal as Maurer tells us is “normalizing cannabis in modern U.S. culture where we are getting closer and closer to the tipping point, I hope, of it becoming legal nationwide.”

The next Women Grow event is tomorrow and it’s an important one featuring a keynote address by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer. Tickets are sold out.

Interested in working in the marijuana industry? Begin by starting your own WomenGrow chapter. Visit for an application.

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