This article was first seen in print and was produced in collaboration with Courtney Friedline (IG: @TheCannaBroad) and CannaHaven.

Women have long been the healers and caretakers of this world and it only makes sense that women are emerging as leaders in the medical cannabis industry. It is widely known that women make the majority of health and wellness choices in households, with reports indicating this number is as high as 80% [1]. With a cultural push towards alternative medical practices, cannabis is the latest alternative medicine to take off.

Etain Health, New York’s only women-owned and led medical marijuana business, was established in 2015, shortly after the enactment of the New York State Compassionate Care Act in 2014. Inspired by founder and Chief Executive Officer Amy Peckham’s mother’s struggle with ALS and their own health struggles, their mission is simple:

“…to improve the quality of life for patients in New York State by providing access to the highest quality, pharmaceutical-grade medical marijuana treatments available. Further, we are committed to research, discovery, and advocacy in pursuit of healthy solutions for diseases, conditions, and the management of debilitating symptoms for patients everywhere.”

Etain operates four dispensaries throughout New York: Syracuse, Kingston, Yonkers, and New York City and the company carries some of the most unique products available in NY. Products include the typical vapor pen inhalers, tinctures, and capsules found at dispensaries, but also oral powders, sprays, and lozenges made with organic honey. Besides being one of the original five medical marijuana licenses in New York, in 2018 Etain began expanding product sales into California, bringing high-grade medical marijuana products to the Golden State.

Being a leader in the New York cannabis industry doesn’t come without struggles. In March of 2019, it was reported that Etain was forced to delay plans to build a new manufacturing facility in Glen Falls, a facility expected to create ten new jobs initially and anticipated to grow to approximately thirty. A grant request through the Job Development Authority was denied due to conflicting legislation between New York State’s medicinal marijuana laws and Federal laws that still consider marijuana cultivation, processing, and sales to be illegal.

According to a 2018 Forbes article [2], it’s estimated that women currently occupy up to 27% of leadership roles in the cannabis industry. This is significantly greater than the estimated 21% of leadership roles women hold in the traditional workforce. Despite the impressive number of women in leadership in the cannabis industry, funding for women is still difficult to come by.

Earlier this year, Hillary Peckham, Etain’s Chief Operating Officer, resigned from her position as President of New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association (NYMCIA), of which she was the only female member. This move was reportedly made, in part, due to the increasing pledge amounts required by the group. Etain’s initial pledge to the group was $50,000, but the required amount is anticipated to reach as high as $2.5 million. The group’s idea was to use the funding for incubators for women and minority-owned cannabis businesses. With their own funding challenges, Etain was not willing to commit to the escalating financial requirements of the group.

With likely changes to Federal laws on the horizon and the legalization of recreational cannabis in New York State, not a matter of if, but a matter of when, hopefully, Etain can hang in there and continue to bring much-needed female leadership to this burgeoning industry.

[1] “General Facts on Women and Job Based Health.” U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration, https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/fact-sheets/women-and-job-based-health.pdf

[2] Kovacevich, Nick. “Cannabis A Wide-Open Space For Female Pioneers.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 17 Dec. 2018.