Chart: Quarter of cannabis businesses are owned or were founded by women

(This is Part II in a series of charts regarding women and minorities in the cannabis industry. Click here to read Part I and click here to read Part III.)

By Eli McVey

Women own and/or founded roughly a quarter of all businesses in the cannabis sector, according to a survey by Marijuana Business Daily, putting the industry ahead of U.S. businesses as a whole in terms of female-run firms.

However, the portion of cannabis companies owned or founded by women varies significantly by sector, suggesting women still face challenges breaking into certain segments of the marijuana industry.

MJBizDaily’s latest anonymous online survey – conducted Aug. 9-13 – includes responses from 567 self-identified marijuana industry senior executives and owners/founders.

Ancillary services companies – which include businesses such as law firms, marketing agencies or any other kind of enterprise that facilitates the marijuana industry – are a particular bright spot for the industry in terms of female ownership.

Well over 40% of ancillary services firms are owned and/or founded by women, a rate far higher than the average across the cannabis industry and more than double that across the larger U.S. business landscape.

Starting an ancillary services firm is generally considered less risky compared to launching a plant-touching business – like a dispensary or cultivation site – as these companies don’t engage in practices that violate federal law.

They also tend to require less upfront capital. And raising the money needed to launch a marijuana business may be particularly challenging for women given how few cannabis industry investment firms are run by women or employ female executives.

This is borne out in the numbers, as the most capital intensive of marijuana businesses – like vertically integrated recreational or medical cannabis companies and investment firms – have the lowest rates of female ownership.

Despite the obstacles, women have found success across all sectors of the marijuana industry as both founders and owners.

For example, Poseidon Asset Management – a San Francisco-based cannabis investment firm – has a female co-founder, as does the parent company of Marijuana Business Daily, to name a few.

As the cannabis industry transitions more into the mainstream, the structure of marijuana companies has begun to resemble that of businesses in the traditional economy. So it stands to reason, with women-owned businesses on the rise throughout the United States, that trend likely will continue throughout the marijuana industry.

Eli McVey can be reached at