Women in Cannabis - Bringing a Spirit of Collaboration to the UK Cannabis Sector
We are a merry band of sisters from all sectors of the industry, freed from the potential-limiting binds of one-upmanship and fired up by the positive impact powerful women uniting together can bring
Written by Mary Biles is the author of ‘The CBD Book: The Essential Guide to CBD Oil’ (Harper Collins), is a regular contributing writer for Project CBD, hosts the podcast Cannabis Voices, and is Chief Editor of CPASS.
I had never really been aware of my gender professionally until working in the cannabis space. In my ‘life before cannabis,’ my apparent scattergun approach to a career had seen me in everything from the TV industry, TEFL teaching, and complementary therapies; all of which had their fair smattering of women. It’s true in my telly days I remember observing how us women struggled with the gungho ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ route to the top taken by our male colleagues and tended to diligently graft our way up the greasy pole of success.
However, back in 2018, as I dipped my toes in the waters of the nascent UK cannabis industry, I couldn’t help but notice the clutch of male industry movers and shakers, territorially marking their scent as they divided up the emerging cannabis sector. Back then, living in Spain and writing for European CBD companies, I was very much an outsider looking in. But what was obvious from afar was the level of animosity between warring factions (mostly male) with axes to grind and grudges to bear.
When I finally moved back to the UK in the summer of 2019, I felt like I needed some kind of ‘UK cannabis industry instruction manual’ in order to work out who hated who and how to safely pick my way through the cannabis minefield without getting blown up. To be honest, it was a shock. I assumed most people were in it for the same reasons as me, to get better access for patients to medicinal cannabis and perhaps rather naively, to ensure cannabis, the plant, doesn’t become hijacked by big pharma along the way.
So, initially it was hard to fathom why so many factions defended their corners with bared teeth when a spirit of collaboration would surely bring about far superior and more lasting results.
That’s not to say back then there weren’t some powerful female voices in the cannabis space, such as the extraordinary mothers fighting for access, some exceptional scientists, and a collection of pioneering CBD entrepreneurs.
And it certainly wasn’t my intention to become a trusted cannabis voice of reason (female or otherwise), but in the two years since being back in the UK, I guess that’s what you could call me.
Thankfully, in the last year, my yearning for collaboration has been answered through a new industry initiative, namely the Women in Medical Cannabis Leadership (WMCL) group, an informal networking group operating through regular zoom get togethers and whatsapp. Collaboration, compassion, and encouragement coarse through the very veins of WMCL, which was formed by Cellen wonder woman Dr Mala Mawkin.
We are a merry band of sisters from all sectors of the industry, freed from the potential-limiting binds of one-upmanship and fired up by the positive impact powerful women uniting together can bring.
For me personally, I’ve found the group tremendously supportive, particularly during the publication of my book ‘The CBD Book: The Essential Guide to CBD Oil’ and it is a great source of knowledge when I’m researching cannabis science articles for Project CBD. Essentially we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders, pitching in with help and cross-pollinating between projects where we can.
My sense is that this spirit of collaboration is now spreading across the UK cannabis sector. In just the last twelve months several new organisations have come into the world seeking to unite industry stakeholders rather than fighting the good fight alone.
In the meantime, I am proud to be one of the many women in the UK cannabis sector bringing about change, whether it be as health professionals, research scientists, patient advocates, activists, journalists or business women. Long may the spirit of collaboration continue.