California voters will decide during this November’s election whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana with Proposition 64. Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996 and in the past two decades, the industry around it has grown exponentially. California is one of the largest economies in the world and a prognosticator of social trends within the United States. In the column Will California Go Green?, we are speaking to experts and commentators on the likelihood of Proposition 64 passing and what it could potentially mean for the state and the country.
Jazmin Hupp is one of the three co-founders of the organization Women Grow. Started in 2014, Women Grow aims to provide resources and connections to women in the cannabis industry, as well as bring more women into it. They currently hold monthly events in 45 cities in the U.S. and Canada, with a total of approximately 20,000 participants. Women Grow was founded in Denver, and Hupp currently lives in Oakland, California.
How are you feeling about Proposition 64 right now?
I’m feeling hopeful. I think it’s gonna pass. I’m excited about most of the barriers to Californians’ accessing marijuana being dropped. We’re going to go on a long road in terms of how to regulate this industry and how to create the best system in California. That road is just starting with Proposition 64. There’s a part of me that would really love to just treat this as a plant and there be no taxes, no regulations, and we go back to native living, but I recognize that we don’t live in a California where everyone can understand that we’re ready for that. It’s gonna be really, really interesting to see, how we regulate this multibillion dollar industry from the beginning, so it’s gonna be fun.
Do you think that most of the public understands this is just the beginning, or do they think that the day after the election, if Proposition 64 passes, people are just gonna be lighting up joints in the streets? Where do you think the awareness is of what this actually means for California and marijuana usage?
I have no idea for the average person, I am so far in the cannabis bubble. I have no idea what the average Californian thinks of the legislation.
This is a really big deal and this touches on so many different worlds and industries and issues. Do you think California is ready for this piece of legislation?
The American public, country-wide, is ready to legalize marijuana. We’re especially ready to legalize it in California. We’ve had the longest running medical program in the United States. In terms of having done our homework, in terms of having cultivated marijuana safely and how do you dispense it and how do you medicate it, we did it. We’ve got more experience in California producing amazing medical marijuana than pretty much anywhere in the world. It’s just a huge disservice to the general public that the general public can’t access this product right now, or at least a lot of them chose not to, based off the stigma and the hoops.
If it does in California, what do you think was more effective in getting the public on board, the medicinal aspects or the potential economic benefits for the state and the people living in here?
The zeitgeist of Sanjay Gupta and the seizure kids is really where we saw the spark of change in people. It’s hard to make medical claims, but it’s really easy to see someone seizing out and [then] stop instantly. Of course with children, we all have empathy for that. The turning point was on the medical side.
If this is the first step on a long journey, what do you think are the first key milestones to meet or things that need to happen if Proposition 64 is passed?
The first thing I’m really looking forward to is coming out with clear testing standards. Almost all the testing we do right now is for marketing purposes, it’s to see how high the THC is. That should change over to make sure that we’re measuring THC the same across everything and making sure that we’re doing the proper pesticides and mold checks on commercially available flowers. I’m also really hopeful that this new system will give us the opportunity to set up longer lasting businesses. What you see, for example in Los Angeles, there are a lot of fly by night dispensaries. That’s a disservice to everybody, because you’re not able to provide a consistent product to your patients. I’m looking forward to us all being able to operate our businesses without fear of raid and legal prosecution.
I’ve talked to people who see this as an economic issue and I’ve talked to people who see this more as a social justice issue. You seem to be interested in combining those two aspects. Which came first for you?
My foundation in it was from an alternative medicine desire, which then turned into social justice because I recognized that as a white female, I am able to participate in this medicine likely unprosecuted, and my black and brown sisters are not. With the economics, we’re using marijuana as a tool to challenge our current business structures and our current manufacturing processes of agriculture. It starts with wanting people to have access to the healthiest plants and food, then social justice, and then economics.
Why are you interested in making marijuana that tool, as you said, to challenge the economic and production practices?
I was conceived in Humbolt and born in Canada because my dad could not stand to have a Reagan presidency after a Reagan governorship. I was born to hippies and I was raised in that lifestyle. I saw people safely consuming marijuana instead of alcohol all throughout my childhood. When I turned 16, I also chose marijuana instead of alcohol as my default. I’m 31 now, I’ve been a daily cannabis consumer for about a decade now. That’s how I got into it.
I thought of marijuana as kind of an inside hack for how we were going to change business in the United States. My previous work was with an organization called Women 2.0, and we were getting women to start high gross, venture-backed technology companies. That organization still exists, they’ve done great work for 10 or 11 years, but at the end of the day, women are only getting 6% or 7% of venture capital funding. The vast majority of new invention technology companies aren’t created to serve women and their families. We’ve created a crisis in our country where being a mother is the worst job we’ve created. We say we value the family and we love children, but we make raising children nearly impossible for the women of this country. What we saw with marijuana was an opportunity to set up a brand new industry without any of the traditional glass ceilings or traditional biases of every other major American industry.
Have you found in the marijuana industry that there are still less of these gender biases? This industry has developed so quickly, so are the old patterns infiltrating it, or are there newer forms of leadership or who’s doing the leading?
Almost everyone who had gotten into it up to this point, with the exception of a few, they come at this because they are bucking a trend, because they are outside of the norm. You’ve got a huge group of people already established in the marijuana industry who eschew the normal and ignore traditional American business culture. We’re seeing more female leaders in this industry than any other. The current estimate is that 36% of the manager levels and above are women. We’ve found that this is a friendlier environment for women than tech by far.
Are you still finding instances of sexism in this industry?
Of course, there are instances of sexism in every part of our culture, it completely permeates it.
So let’s say Proposition 64 passes and that the money starts coming in. Then there might be people who come from more traditional business backgrounds who see the amount of money that’s being generated, and they might think that since this is a legal industry now and there’s less stigma around in it, “Why should they get all the money?” How do you protect the industry from the older ways of doing business, which might not be in line the values or approaches that you believe in, or the kind of the systems and the people that in leadership that are there right now?
That’s going to be decided by the customer. I don’t get to decide that. So for me, that means educating customers about how the things they put in their body are created and what they are supporting by buying those things. We’re at a turning point in consumerism where the majority of women are now very interested in how that chicken is slaughtered or how that apple is farmed. I find that those people naturally gravitate to plant medicine and those people are gonna be the foundational customers of the marijuana industry. We hope that those conscious consumers form a base that doesn’t want Monsanto weed but want Swami Select weed, because we’ve done a good enough job of educating the public between the differences.
What about in more of the institutional leadership roles? How do you preserve the 36% of managerial or higher roles, or even increase it? How do you make sure those gender biases don’t start creeping in and those glass ceilings don’t become installed?
We do professional networking events in 45 cities the first Thursday of every month. We do a lot of education and speaking on creating powerful women and being powerful businesswomen and taking ownership of our own cycles. Women are gonna be the primary purchasers of marijuana after we release the stigma. We know this because women are already purchasing 93% of over-the-counter medicines, and on a medical side, [marijuana] is very akin to an over-the-counter medicine. We know this because women are the primary purchasers or organic foods and yoga classes and all those alternative health services—you think of cannabis as alternative health. The only side that we know will see more male purchases is the straight up party, Friday night side. But if you’ve ever been married, at the end of the day, you know who goes out and picks up the wine for the Friday night party, and it’s usually the wife. So we think that because women are going to be controlling purchasing decisions, they’ll also look to support more female-foward companies.