Women in cannabis business discuss industry’s draw, downsides

When Dina Rollman visited Colorado five years ago to learn about the medical marijuana industry, she was struck by what she described as a “largely white, male-dominated industry.”

That’s why when she returned to her native Illinois, she decided to do something about it.

“I came back to Illinois and founded Illinois Women in Cannabis, a non-profit, in August 2014,” Rollman said. “We really tried to make women from all racial backgrounds and professional backgrounds aware of the opportunities in the industry.”

Rollman participated in a panel about women in the cannabis industry Tuesday at MoCannBizCon, a multi-day convention on the business of cannabis held in St. Louis. She joined fellow panelists Mitch Meyers from Earth City-based BeLeaf Co. and Sally Vander Veer, a Colorado cannabis entrepreneur.

The panelists discussed everything from their experiences with the stigmas associated with the industry and the unglamorous early days of their businesses, to the diverse skill sets that benefit entrepreneurs in the space.

In 2017, women occupied 27 percent of leadership positions in the marijuana industry, according to Marijuana Business Daily, a Colorado-based trade publication. In comparison, women held 23 percent of executive posts that year in America’s top 1,000 companies.

“I think that women are uniquely suited to this industry. When I see the help that it provides people, as a human being, as a mother, as a wife, I get it,” Meyers said. “That’s why I think women are almost drawn to this.”

Meyers said she was encouraged by the diversity she saw at the two-day convention.

“I was thrilled yesterday to see the diversity in this room,” Meyers said. “I hope we see that play out in the ownership and the operations of these businesses in Missouri.”

Vander Veer told the crowd that she actively recruits female talent for her Colorado-based operation.

“As a woman leader in the industry, I do try to find female talent,” Vander Veer said. “Cannabis by its nature attracts a diverse group.”

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