With nationwide legalization just around the corner, Canadian cannabis is shaping up to be a billion-dollar industry. However, gender dynamics already play a large part in the burgeoning field, which is why Van der Pop, North America’s leading female-focused cannabis brand, held its very first Women & Weed event earlier this month in downtown Toronto.
According to a study conducted by Van der Pop, 66% of women hide their cannabis usage.
Packed with researchers, producers, and designers, the day-long conference got us up close and personal with some of the incredible women breaking ground and setting standards in the legal cannabis space, covering everything from crafting policy to influencing the forthcoming retail market. Here are five key takeaways:
1. Van der Pop is launching two branded cannabis strains with WeedMD
April Pride, CCO and founder of Van der Pop, took the stage to welcome everyone and share some exciting news: a collaboration with the licensed medical marijuana producer WeedMD, for which Van der Pop will produce a pair of branded cannabis strains. The collaboration will stay true to the VdP brand with sleek, airtight, childproof, and UV-protected storage jars. “We’re confident that these carefully chosen, grown, and cultivated strains will fit in perfectly with the rest of our Van der Pop offerings,” shared Pride.
2. Women still face stigma for using cannabis in their daily lives
According to a study conducted by Van der Pop, 66% of women hide their cannabis usage. On the panel “Weed: Where to Start,” panelists Ljubica Kstovic (co-founder of the Museum of Cannabis), and Irie Selkirk (head of medical outreach and education at Emblem Cannabis) mentioned that many of their female patients lack a trusted source to speak to about their cannabis use and fear being stigmatized by coworkers and peers if they’re honest about using cannabis for health and wellness. The Van der Pop study echoed these statements, confirming that 70% of women feel cannabis use carries a stigma.
3. Licensed producers should lead the charge for medical research
Noting the lack of medical research on cannabis in Canada, Dr. Biljana Kostovic of the Etobicoke General Hospital called on licensed producers to start engaging the medical field, to see how different cannabinoids might work for different ailments, as well as possible interactions cannabis might have with other medications.
4. Cannabis cosmetics are happening
During the “Weed in Fashion, Beauty & Design” panel, we were introduced to Brandi Leifso, CEO and founder of Evio Beauty Group. Her story was captivating for a few reasons: She launched a highly successful all-natural line of cosmetics while living in a women’s shelter, and now she’s expanding the line into the cannabis industry. (According to a VdP survey, 60% of women are interested in cannabis-enhanced skin care products, and Leifso is ready to help.) While Leifso couldn’t release too many details, she mentioned having locked down a licensed producer and announced plans to donate $1 from every product to YWCA Canada. Go Brandi Leifso!
5. 32% of women want to work in the industry, so why aren’t there more of us?
Panelists Antuanette Gomez, chapter head of the cannabis organization Women Grow, and Tahira Rehmatullah, managing director of the financial group Hypur Ventures, noted the gender disparity that continues in the cannabis space. While it can seem discouraging, Rehmatullah urged the crowd to “be the change” we want to see, starting with inviting more women, women of colour, and queer women to the table for board positions and job opportunities. For interested newbies, Gomez suggests checking out one of the Women Grow monthly networking events, featuring panelists who discuss industry topics and can help connect, educate, and empower women all across the cannabis industry into different jobs and mentorship opportunities.