Ahead of 4/20, these carpool-driving suburban moms talking about turning cannabis into cash.
Jane West has gotten high with Snoop Dogg, been busted by the SWAT team, and fired from her job for vaping.
At first glance, no one would suspect that West, 44, is anything other than the affluent suburban mom she is, with a fresh blow-out, tortoiseshell glasses and polished pencil skirt. It’s the pin on her conservative black blazer – a silver marijuana leaf – that gives her away. The mom to two boys, ages 10 and 7, is also the founder of a 50,000-plus-member cannabis networking group and a successful line of bongs and pipes.
Like West, you’d never guess that Rosie Mattio, a bubbly mom of four kids all under eight, works in weed. The Boston University-educated brunette, who does public relations for cannabis companies such as marijuana dating app High There, seems like every other mom in her daughter’s carpool line. That is, until she jumps out of the car rocking a marijuana-leaf tank.
“It’s become part of my brand, I’m the mom who works in marijuana,” she says.
Mommies who pay the bills with weed
West and Mattio, both of whom work in weed but don’t actually sell the green stuff, are just two of the many women making a living in the cannabis industry, which now boasts an estimated 33,000 businesses. That number that is expected to triple in the next five years, says Chris Walsh, the editor of Marijuana Business Daily. Roughly one in three executives of cannabis businesses is female, compared to only about 15% among Fortune 500 companies, a Marijuana Business Daily survey found. Many of those women are moms.
Industry insiders say it’s high time that women and moms entered the picture. Back in 2013, West says the weed industry in Denver was “dude soup”; bro culture, clunky products designed for guys who know all the words to “Dazed and Confused,” and severely lacking in polish and finesse.
So after pot was legalized in Colorado, West began producing the kind of events that suburban moms like herself were used to: Canapes, cocktails and chef cooking demonstrations at art galleries and chic bakeries. At every event, attendees were encouraged to consume cannabis. About an hour into one such event — after the stoned partygoers was munching on chili-rubbed bacon on a stick and salmon cups — a SWAT team burst in and began questioning West about the origins of the marijuana at the party. (The pot was legal, though the cops did charge her for holding an event without a liquor license.)
West’s newest pot-venture is Jane West, a female-friendly line of sleek bongs and other products in trendy colors like cobalt and amber. The company is successful enough that she now pays herself and three employees a salary, although she won’t get in to the weeds with numbers and declined to share exact figures. West projects that in the next few years, her take-home pay will exceed the $80,000 a year she made in her former corporate job. “My family functions on my regular income,” she says. The same is true of Mattio, who says the money that she earns from her seven paying cannabis clients makes a significant contribution to her family’s income.
A marijuana holder, designed to look like a compact, from Jane West.
Why moms turn to cannabis work
For Becca Foster, a 42-year-old Denver resident, the flexible schedule and work-from-home aspect of the bud business was a big draw. Just five years ago, the mom of four was a stressed out senior implementation manager at a national bank in Denver. “I worked from when I woke up to when I went to bed. Sometimes, I worked seven days a week,” she says. To cope with the anxiety of work, as well as the working mother’s guilt, Foster turned to sugary foods, alcohol, antidepressants and an anti-anxiety medication.
Then she discovered weed, which helped her lose weight and curb her stress — and decided to make a career out of it. She started with a very part-time gig hosting pot parties — think Mary Kay, but for Mary Jane — giving groups of eight to 12 women lessons about cannabis, and then selling them everything from $50 vape pens to $600 table-top pot vaporizers. She says she could make anywhere from nothing to more than $1,000 a party. In her first year doing that, she made less than $10,000, but built industry relationships that helped her land her most recent gig: selling ads for WeedStream, a marijuana-related radio station. After building relationships with advertisers, she expects she’ll make at least around $30,000 a year soon. And more importantly for her, both jobs allow her to make her own hours so that she can be around to get the kids ready for school or attend their extracurriculars.
What do you tell the kids?
Stay-at-home mom and triathlete Kat Donatello, who makes medicinal marijuana-filled dog biscuits, has been straightforward with her two teen daughters about what she does. “There was some initial walking on eggshells to make sure they understood that there are responsible ways to do things,” she says. “But now, they know exactly what I am doing. Regardless of whether it’s cannabis or sex or alcohol, I want an open dialogue.”
Her daughters, who are 17 and 19, have even helped her package the dog biscuits — which she sells mostly via her online store — and ship them out over the holidays. Her oldest, who is studying hospitality in college, even wants to get involved in the new family business: “She knows this is an industry that women have ability to thrive in,” Donatello says.
This story was originally published in 2017.
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