Cannabis industry eyeing female investors, customers as market expands

As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, some are looking to customize products and services to a group of people who haven't typically been part of the industry in the past — women.

Female entrepreneurs working to change cannabis culture, aesthetic

At the Cannabis and Hemp Expo in Ottawa this weekend, there was advice for women on how to get involved in the cannabis industry. (CBC News )

As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, there's a growing desire to tailor products and services to a demographic group that hasn't typically been part of the industry in the past — women. 

This weekend's Cannabis and Hemp Expo in Ottawa includes seminars on everything from cooking with cannabis to promoting cannabis wellness products. It also features a panel on female participation in the industry. 

Bridget Hoffer, co-founder of Marigold Marketing and PR, said there's plenty of space for women in the brand-new market.

"The cannabis industry is becoming a driver on the global stage," she said. "Women across Canada are jumping in because they don't want to stand back. They want to be part of it."

Bridget Hoffer, co-founder of Marigold Marketing and PR, says women are jumping into the cannabis industry. (CBC)

Health and wellness

With the legalization of cannabis, many companies and investors are looking for ways to tie the drug into the incredibly popular wellness and self-care industry, said Megan Cornell, CEO of Momentum Law.  

Edibles are expected to be legal in Canada by the end of 2019, and Cornell said the true range of potential cannabis-infused products is absolutely vast.

Many of those potential products — from infused teas and bath products to candles and creams — are geared toward wellness and style, she said, and their market success could be driven by female customers and investors.

"Women have less of an association with a smoked product in the cannabis industry," she said. "It's something that's clearly associating with the health and wellness industry right now very, very strongly."

Smart business

From a business perspective, Hoffer said it makes sense for companies to market their products to women — according to a 2016 Neilsen report, women account for 60 per cent of primary shoppers, giving them outsized influence when it comes to getting products into homes.

Megan Cornell says the cannabis industry is 'poised for very strong female involvement.' (CBC)

With cannabis entering the mainstream, Hoffer said many budding companies are looking for ways to capitalize. 

"If you take it from a consumer point of view, women are often the person who organizes the lifestyle and entertainment, and they're often the person that manages the quality of what comes in and out of a household," she said.

 "Many cannabis products are geared toward them as a decision maker."

For Cornell, whether or not a female shopper will buy a cannabis product also depends on the look of the product itself.

The whole industry is really poised for very strong female involvement because there's such a focus on changing the user experience.- Megan Cornell

Changing the feel of cannabis culture to something more streamlined and fashion-forward represents a huge opportunity for women to get involved, she said. 

"The whole industry is really poised for very strong female involvement because there's such a focus on changing the user experience," Cornell said. 

Cornell said her law firm has seen a huge increase in the number of people interested in jumping into the cannabis industry.

While only about 10 per cent of new applicants are women, she said that number is likely to increase as the industry evolves and sheds some of its stigma.

"It is literally a minimum of one new person a day, sometimes as much as five new people a day coming to us," she said. "I've been a lawyer for almost 20 years. I've never seen anything like this."

The Cannabis and Hemp Expo runs until Sunday.

With files from Judy Trinh and Leah Hansen