Diamond pot-leaf earrings, studded vaporizers and odor-proof Italian leather handbags are just a few, ahem, higher-end products by and for women that are elevating cannabis culture. These entrepreneurs are "a bit more Prada than tie-dye," says Venice native Jeanine Moss, co-founder of AnnaBís luxury purses, which keep pot odor contained in hidden compartments.
Moss is among the growing number of pioneering women staking out space in one of America's fastest-growing markets — one that could explode in California if voters approve recreational marijuana in November. More than 20 million American women who earn at least $75,000 per year have tried cannabis, according to a June 2015 Pew Research Center report.
Moss calls 2016 the "year of the upscale cannabis consumer." She says this demographic, once underserved, is now the target of various new businesses cropping up around L.A. Take designer Jacquie Aiche's "sweet leaf" diamond studs, which cost $440 (and appeared on Rihanna's Instagram feed). They've grown in popularity as more customers come out as green. "It's a statement, and it's a strong movement," Aiche says.
"We set trends on a global scale, and that's why L.A. has an opportunity here to set a standard," says Lisa Sweeney, Los Angeles chapter chair of Women Grow. "The women I see here are coming in because they see [the cannabis industry] as a level playing field with equal opportunities."
Indeed, women have advanced in this budding industry faster than in other, more well-established ones.
Women hold 36 percent of all executive-level positions in the cannabis industry (compared with 22 percent among all U.S. businesses), according to a Marijuana Business Daily survey conducted in October. The survey also found that women account for 63 percent of executives in cannabis testing labs and 48 percent of those in cannabis "processed or infused product" manufacturing.
More and more women-crafted, cannabis-related products — such as Whoopi Goldberg's pot line for PMS or Bethenny Frankel's "Skinnygirl," munchie-free pot strain — are shattering stereotypes about pot smokers.
"In L.A., the women who are getting into the space are more mainstream," Sweeney says. "As far as how that elevates the industry or changes the stereotype, those types of wellness products send out a positive message that cannabis has a medical purpose, a well-being purpose."
After learning of Morton Salt heiress Pauline Sabin's contributions to repealing alcohol prohibition in 1933 (Sabin used her socialite status, wealth and celebrity connections to lead a group of lady activists), marketing expert and media personality Cheryl Shuman felt inspired to do the same with cannabis.
"This is a really simple rebranding campaign," says Shuman, director of the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club and Moms for Marijuana. "When people think of cannabis, they think of a bunch of weed in a Ziploc bag. Our packaging, with 14-karat gold leaves, porcelain and crystal, is very high-end, something you'd expect at Tiffany's, [that] shows the high society, if you will, of cannabis."
With cannabis tastings (similar to a wine-pairing dinner) led by five-star chefs, cannabis yoga retreats, secret speakeasy-style cannabis parties, cannabis-infused cosmetic products and a green cannabis juicing line, the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club promotes what Shuman calls "couture cannabis."
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Shuman says her normalizing approach empowers people to come out of the closet and talk about — and flaunt — their cannabis consumption. "When you have a vaporizer, it can either be a simple, black vape pen, or you can treat it as a fashion accessory. Decorate it with ruby or 14-karat gold, and people are like, 'Oh my God, what is that?' It gets the conversation started."
"There's a whole group of people who were using cannabis who didn't feel at home," says Whitney Beatty, founder of Apothecarry, a company that sells pot humidors. "The industry didn't reflect what their needs were or how they lived their lives as mothers, attorneys, doctors and executives."
Beatty says these women have been underserved, aesthetically speaking. "When someone has a party with fantastic wine and food and then they bring out a baggie of weed, it takes away from the whole experience. It doesn't fit," she says, explaining the need for her leather-bound or wooden stash cases. "If you're a 30- or 40-something-year-old woman, I hope you look at our ads and say, 'That's me, I can see myself in that world.'"
As a female entrepreneur of color and a former reality TV executive, busy with job stress and baby stress, Beatty intends to make cannabis culture better reflect her lifestyle and demographic. "I think there's an even deeper stigma sometimes against African-Americans," Beatty says. The stigma, she says, needs to be erased. "This industry is here, it's growing, it's booming — and I don't want to see us get cut out."