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Video: Women Execs In The Cannabis Industry Address Challenges, Opportunities And More

Jelena Martinovic
·4 min read

Women hold only 8% of CEO roles in the cannabis industry. That's according to the white paper from The Arcview Group's investor network and the National Cannabis Industry Association.

Women like Lori Glauser, CEO and co-founder of Evio Inc. (OTCPK:EVIO), are fighting to drive change.

She was one of the guests in the special edition of the Benzinga Cannabis Hour, co-hosted by Javier Hasse and Green Market Report's Debra Borchardt.

A Tough Endeavor

Being a woman in the cannabis industry is hard. And being a female cannabis lab owner is even harder.

"A lot of people will open a lab and recognize that the capital required and the regulatory requirements are very high," Glauser said. This means many businesses are not making it past the three-to-five-year mark.

In addition, raising capital for female-owned companies often means preparing and presenting a pristine balance sheet alongside an infallible business strategy - something many males are not required to do.

Glauser also thinks there is a bias towards men.

"There might be questions in the investor's mind about whether the woman could do as good a job as a man," she said.

And this bias is particularly prominent in pitch competitions. In fact, some Wall Street-oriented conferences and events "hire atmosphere models to kind of mix it up a little bit at the after-party," she said.

Women And The Two-Dimensional World Of Pandemic

With the rise of virtual conferences over the last year, women are deprived of the opportunity to "show up and be in the room" and "prove yourself," Emily Paxhia, co-founder of Poseidon Asset Management, one of the longest-running investment funds, disclosed.

"We slid backward as females in the sector during this two-dimensional world that we're living in," she added.

Paxhia's company has been investing in cannabis since 2014. Its third fund, The Poseidon Garden Fund, which launched earlier this year, is now open for investors. It's focused on "earlier stage companies of this of the spectrum," as opposed to the company's first two funds.

"I was voting with my own dollars on female founders," she said, revealing she "invested in early-stage product companies."

"There just hadn't been that many women at the later stage companies," Paxhia said.

However, now that Poseidon is sliding back to support early-stage companies, Paxhia revealed that "the first company that is our target to fund on the closing is a female-founded company."

"You have to be flexible when investing in the cannabis industry" since "it's a wildly shifting sector," she warned.

Emulating Markets, Rather Than Recreating The Wheel

Dina Rollman, a senior vice president of regulatory and government affairs at the Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries (OTC: GTBIF), has been facing “trial by fire” for years now, as she opted to enter the industry seven years ago as a cannabis lawyer and social equity advocate.

She figured out how to talk to regulators and legislators, and how to go to hold city council and community meetings “all about bringing adult-use cannabis to a community.”

She also co-founded a nonprofit organization dubbed Illinois Women in Cannabis with Wendy Berger, one of the first women to serve on the GTI's board.

The company has also partnered with the Last Prisoner Project to help those unfairly punished for non-violent cannabis offenses, and developed the License Education Assistance Program (LEAP), an Illinois-focused social equity initiative designed to help reduce barriers to cannabis business ownership for those unfairly impacted by cannabis prohibition.

“Doing government relations in cannabis is multi-pronged,” Rollman said.

As states are pawing their way toward marijuana legalization, it seems that their programs are emulating existing markets.

Around 80% of the regulations within the states east of the Mississippi “are more or less identical.”

The new states coming online have “the benefit of seeing which programs are going well,” with each of them “getting closer to really getting it right.”

Creativity, Thoughtfulness, And Support – A Path To Success

Cannabis marketing and public relations mogul, and Mattio Communications founder and CEO, Rosie Mattio emphasized the importance of understanding the nuances of every jurisdiction since "every state has different ways" when it comes to marketing cannabis products.

"Doing compliant PR or compliant marketing versus being able to just ship any products across state lines to any editor" are two different things, she explained.

"We need to be diligent of who we're pitching and whether this is part of their beat" to avoid unnecessary costs, she added.

Being creative and thoughtful at the same time paves the path to success.

As a mother of four with a husband that supports her business endeavors by staying at home and taking care of the kids, Mattio is empowering other women in the space to thrive.

She believes that when women need to help each other in order to win.

"This is not a time in a nascent industry for women to be infighting," she said.

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