Celebrating Women’s History Month With the Ladies of Leafly

Women’s History Month is upon us, and to celebrate this time of year (as well as today, International Women’s Day), we turned to some of our female staff here at Leafly. Each day we move ahead in this industry; it’s a rich and diverse movement that affects all consumers and advocates, and education is one of the most important ways we gear this industry into a positive and more accepted light.

Below, eight women give us their unique perspectives, as well as thoughts on cannabis stigma, reactions to their career choice, and what it means to be a woman in the cannabis space.

Bailey Rahn, Editor and Strain Researcher

6 years in the cannabis industry

(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

What first piqued your interest in pursuing a career in cannabis?

My interest in cannabis was, at first, personal and private. I was dealing with appetite and stomach problems, PTSD, and depression. Cannabis – something I’d been closed off to previously – changed everything. It made colors brighter and eating pleasurable, my college studies became fascinating once again, and it deepened my relationships to family and friends. I felt like I owed something to this plant for helping me find health and happiness again.

I spent a lot of time meeting and talking to patients after that, and I realized that they had similar stories and gratitude for this plant – as well as endless support and empathy for other patients. It’s still an emotional and profound experience meeting someone whose life has been changed by cannabis, and they’re the reason I wanted to make a career out of this.

Have you faced any stigma or challenges since beginning your career?

Sometimes in small talk with strangers or acquaintances I’ll mention my job, but the worst that happens is the subject gets changed. I think people are figuring out that cannabis doesn’t cause laziness and stupidity – that those are instead independently formed bad habits. We need to be open and talk about our cannabis consumption, because that’s what makes others realize that normal, well-adjusted people love weed, too.

This job puts you in a position to be stigmatized and challenged, but I appreciate that about it. Opposing perspectives help us think critically about our cause, and I love opportunities to have challenging discussions that involve research and experience. If someone judges me by my cannabis use, that’s just your opinion, man.

What’s your favorite product or strain?

Legal Sodas and Craft Elixirs are two of my favorites among infused products. My favorite brands for dabbing changes weekly, but I’ve really fallen in love with Oleum Extracts. Their quality is consistent, and I love that they’re one of few brands to pay extra for detailed terpene testing. For strains, my favorites will forever include Plushberry, Tangie, and Schrom.

Aerin Deluca, Android Developer

4 months in the cannabis industry

(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Can you talk about any negative stigma you have faced since beginning your career in cannabis?

Absolutely. A number of my relatives are quite stubbornly religious, so I’m working for “that weed company” as a “Devil’s lettuce peddler.” (Note: I write software and have almost no professional contact with cannabis products.) I’ve not tried cannabis yet myself. My friends mostly only get negative feedback from people who still think cannabis is a dangerous narcotic.

However, I’ve definitely seen it become less stigmatized in more educated circles, and in groups that take pride in doing their research before arguing an opinion. Sadly, I see a lot of people who tend to blindly and adamantly argue what they were taught in school or church 40 years ago getting more angry that it’s being legalized in so many states. Honestly, I don’t get it. If you hate it so much, just don’t use it, and it won’t affect you. Let the rest of us ease our joint pain in peace.

What’s your favorite strain or product?

As a non-user and therefore going purely based on the names, my favorite strain has to be Chuck Norris Black. I hear it has quite a kick.

Camille Lim, Project Manager

5 months in the cannabis industry

(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

What made you want to pursue a career in cannabis?

I saw the opportunity to work in an industry that I really care about and make a difference. I am passionate about making cannabis mainstream, breaking down stigmas, and elevating the conversation about its benefits because it has improved my life so much, and I want to share it with others. Educate people. This is why I pursued a career in cannabis, and Leafly specifically, to reshape public perception. It still interests me every day that we have this whole new industry emerging out of the dark and finally becoming legal. Think about it: It is now legal to consume a mainstream product that is improving the quality of life, fixing social injustice, and most importantly, saving lives. Mind blowing. Who wouldn’t want to be part of this movement?

What negatives or stereotypes have you dealt with in the past regarding your cannabis consumption (if you consume)?

I was always seen as an innocent, studious, tiny Asian girl. When people find out that I consume, they are shocked. I ask them why, and they proceed to list the stereotypes of the lazy stoner and assume cannabis consumers can’t have a productive life. They imagine couch potatoes with the munchies and no future. I smile and educate them on how cannabis actually enhances my life.

Luckily, I have never experienced any stigmas or challenges other than the occasional joke about me being a drug dealer now. However, in the beginning, when people asked where I work, I hesitated and chose not to disclose that I work in the cannabis industry. Especially with my relatives, who are very conservative. I had a fear of being judged and them perpetuating the stereotypes and myths, or worse, my parents not being proud of me.

However, I realized that if I want to make a positive influence, I have to talk about it so I can pass on the knowledge, which means embracing and promoting this industry that I love wholeheartedly. Hence, the start of my blog about making cannabis mainstream and elevating the conversation.

What’s your favorite strain or product?

It depends on why I am smoking. To exercise, my favorite is to smoke sativas, like Sour Diesel, and usually in concentrate form by the brand Optimum. If it’s to focus, I’ll do a hybrid, preferably Legalized OG, in flower form by Seattle Private Reserve. If I just want to relax, I’ll do an indica like Berry White in flower form by Grail.

Diana Rocha, Customer Service Specialist

8 months in the cannabis industry

(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

What interested you in pursuing a career in cannabis?

A library is one of my favorite things in the whole world because I believe in equal access to information and education for all who wish to learn. Leafly is a cannabis library. I was excited to join a company that empowers people to assuage their curiosity, to step into the unknown, to question stigmas and defy their own comfort zones. The same can be said for cannabis use. The culture revolves on freedom of self, humanity, and sharing.

Working towards legalization is, quite literally, working toward freedom  especially from drug charges and jail time that ruin the lives of so many people. A society that values empowerment, freedom, and sharing is one I want to build so I’m happy to be here. Don’t forget: Cannabis is and always has been dominated by ladies. We owe our bud, concentrates, and infused guacamole to female cannabis plants.

There tends to be a lot of stigma surrounding cannabis users – and a particular stigma surrounding women who consume. Have you seen any positive changes moving away from the negatives now that cannabis is becoming a fast-growing and more accepted industry?

Stigmas surrounding cannabis users have certainly taken a nosedive. They’re still out there, even in the seat of Attorney General (at the time I’m writing this). However, cannabis use as a whole is something people from all backgrounds, all parts of the country, and many generations stand behind. I speak to these people on the phone daily and they are curious about cannabis. Some of them have believed the stoner stereotype and don’t want to be seen as such. Many of these people (or their loved ones) are in pain. They will look past those old beliefs and open their mind to find relief and a better quality of life. A wider variety of products has also made cannabis more accessible and helps combat the stigma.

My own parents are from Mexico and abhor the stereotype of the criminal drug dealer, pothead, lazy Mexican, and they don’t want anyone perpetuating it. They warn me of becoming addicted, but we have good conversations about how people use cannabis medically and agree it should be legally accessible.

What’s your favorite strain or product?

Maui Wowie!

Kristin Kofmehl, Event Manager

14 months in the cannabis industry

(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

In regards to women in the cannabis industry, can you speak on any negatives or positives you’ve seen?

As a feminist I feel some of the historical perceptions of females in the cannabis space leave much to be desired. Sex sells, but women bring more to the industry than their bodies. I’m happy to report that the bad-ass women who work in this space are changing those old perceptions daily. With organizations like Women Grow and the fact that this industry has more females in management and level C positions than any other in the country speaks volumes about females not only changing perceptions, but owning the movement and driving it forward.

I think every cannabis consumer has had to fight against the common “token stoner” stereotype at one point or another. I point to my smart, successful, and driven co-workers and industry peers as examples of how those stereotypes are born out of propaganda. The few times I have faced hesitation it’s been easily turned into a teaching moment by communicating Leafly’s mission and goals to educate, and it immediately opens people’s minds. As a female there are still challenges of misogynistic undertones in a male-dominated industry. I hope worldwide those issues are on their way out.

What first motivated you to get into a career in cannabis?

I had the awesome opportunity to be a Processing Team Leader on a medical cannabis farm in a beautiful Northern California river valley. My perspective on the stigmatized plant was forever changed. In just a few short weeks I turned from a recreational user into an advocate.  The experience taught me much more than I knew was possible about this miraculous plant. I helped manage the harvest from field to dried flowers and was able to witness firsthand the positive effect it had on the surrounding community.

After that experience I knew I wanted to find a way to be a part of the movement to end prohibition. Cannabis could not only bring natural medicines to the people of this country, it could also heal communities that have been systematically suppressed. I hope we can all work together to make that a reality.

What’s your favorite product or strain?

Right now I’m digging Strawberry Mango Haze. It’s got a great flavor and banishes stress.

Lisa Rough, Editor

3 years in the cannabis industry

(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Since working in the cannabis industry, what are some positives and negatives you have experienced or witnessed?

I’ve always been passionate about cannabis legalization. Once I discovered cannabis and the incredible benefits it has, particularly for my depression and anxiety, I realized that everything I’d been taught about cannabis while growing up was false. Once I began researching more and more about marijuana, I realized how misunderstood and stigmatized it is, but I didn’t really understand why. Accepting the job at Leafly really cemented my interest and passion for cannabis legalization and helped me recognize how much the world could benefit from ending prohibition and the War on Drugs.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the reactions to my newfound career. My parents have been endlessly supportive, which means the world to me, but even people I wouldn’t have expected to support me, like my conservative cousins, have been shockingly understanding.

I dreaded telling one cousin in particular, who lives in DC, works for the FBI, and is a staunch Republican, but his reaction was unlike anything I imagined. He laughed and we had a long discussion about respecting one’s right to privacy – essentially, what you do on your own time in your own home, so long as it’s not hurting anyone else, should be your business and your business alone. It gave me some insight into the Republican perspective on cannabis, which was truly invaluable.

What are some of the different aspects you have seen, specifically, in regards to women in the cannabis space?

From what I’ve seen on the front lines, women are the future of this industry. There are a lot of women industry leaders and it’s really heartening to see how much camaraderie is fostered within the women in cannabis. There’s a sense of connection and friendship, not unlike the first time you realize you and a friend both share a love of cannabis. It unlocks a whole new facet of your relationship and you find yourself relating to each other on a different, deeper level. The female cannabis scene is tight and, hopefully it will serve to lift each other up as the industry expands.

What’s your favorite product or strain?

My favorite strains tend to be on the indica-leaning side. I’ve always loved Plushberry for its deep, quiet intensity and for spurring profound, revelatory conversations. I also love Lavender, a calm, warm indica that leaves you feeling happy and relaxed, but without gluing you to the couch. On the CBD side, ACDC is one of my favorite pain-relieving strains that’s also great for soothing an upset stomach.

Maria Sharp, Manager of Sales Operations

5 years in the cannabis industry

(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

What drew you to the cannabis industry?

A few months before I left my makeup brushes behind me [Maria had worked at MAC cosmetics], I made friends with a coworker who was working part-time as a freelance event producer and public relations agent. Looking for a passion project, I agreed to hop on board to help plan and work day-of coordination for a launch party for PDA Magazine, a cannabis art zine based in Seattle. Becoming enamored with the cannabis culture at the party — meeting cannabis growers, lovers and patients; inhaling Girl Scout Cookies for my first time; witnessing a buffet table that homed a smorgasbord of both savory and sweet infused delights — it all equated to a turning point for me. While browsing job listings on Craigslist and seeing things like “420,” “MMJ,” and “budtender” over and over, I thought to myself, “I could check I.D.’s in a window,” referring to nabbing a cushy gig at a dispensary here in the city. Cut to a very small medical marijuana collective in the south side of Seattle.

Next thing I know, I’m the purchasing manager, then was given keys to the kingdom. I hired more diverse staff, reorganized how we conducted inventory, and helped open and manage two more locations in Seattle. My “low-impact” part-time position took over my life. Working with patients made me an advocate. However, between [parent] disapproval and the non-stop pace of the business, I decided to end my time at New Millennium.

I turned to the internet to find a position in a cannabis company that could show my parents that I was being responsible and not just slinging weed in the south side. Luckily, one of the few companies I applied to looked past my un-traditional resume and brought me in based on my experience with PDA Magazine and New Millennium, and that company was Leafly. That was four years ago.

Have you faced any stigma or challenges since beginning your career?

Absolutely. I’m relatively young, inexperienced, an ethnic minority, and female. Plus, I come from a fairly conservative home, raised by a retired Navy chief baby boomer and a Filipina immigrant. Whether it was proving I could hang with the boys in a smoke circle, demonstrating my value as an employee alongside older, more traditionally educated and highly experienced colleagues (nearly all men), having to explain myself to friends that I wasn’t a burnout stoner, or convincing my parents that I was following my heart by dedicating myself to a movement that happened to be related to a Schedule I controlled substance and illicit drug in the eyes of the federal government, it’s all been a struggle.

But, all have been overcome by being open, honest, and proud of my life choices and keeping a handle on why I do what I do. Cannabis prohibition is a civil rights and world health issue, and legal cannabis represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a gender-equal industry.

What’s your favorite product or strain?

I’m a huge edible lover. Brands in Washington that you can find in my cabinet at home are Legal, Winterlife, GaGa, Ruby, and 4.20 Bar. When it comes to strains I’m all over the place. The more you learn, the more you understand how different cannabis varieties and their varying delivery methods can affect you. I know how to cocktail my consumption to tailor my experience. I can enjoy a heavy indica strain like Banana Kush without passing out in the middle of Planet Earth II.

Kelly Worcester, Digital Marketing Manager

1 year in the cannabis industry

(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Socially, what has it been like for you since beginning your career in the cannabis industry?

I went and visited one of my best friends in Northern California earlier this year. When we sat down to dinner with her family, her husband’s family, and other friends, I was asked where I work. Knowing the background of some of the family members, I said I worked at a startup and I do email marketing. I was pressed more and asked where I work. You could cut the tension in the room with a knife when I replied, “Leafly.”

It got even worse when the father responded, “So you’re a drug dealer then?”, which didn’t feel great. It was one of the first times I felt demeaned for what I do instead of encouraged, since most days at Leafly are filled with stories where people thank us for helping them find the medicine and therapy they need, or how they’ve been able to kick their opioid addiction because of cannabis. However, the negative stigmas are exactly what our marketing team tries to defy every day.

Additionally, I actually had a lot of negative thoughts about cannabis up until I was 25 or so. I didn’t understand its medicinal properties or the institutional racism involved with arrests. Now that I’m educated on these matters, I try and be open about the reasons why I consume: It really helps me wind-down at night, helps calm my anxiety and jitters, and sometimes I want to relax without the calories from beer and wine!

Cannabis spans all demographics, cultures, all types of adults, so women shouldn’t bear any more of the stigma/burden than anyone else. I am hoping that people will begin to realize the medicinal properties of cannabis and eventually de-stigmatize it all.

What’s your favorite product or strain?

The Urb pipe  I love it! It doesn’t have a carb, so no awkward breathing “when-do-I-release” situations! And you don’t actually light the flower on fire, so there’s minimum coughing!

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