Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference

Menzinga – A Cannabis Sausage Fest in Chicago

I am always so excited to attend cannabis events of all capacities. An underground baby, there was a time when the only events I knew about were the ones we had to hide from the police. But in Chicago, in 2022, there are multi-million dollar conferences where some of the biggest names discuss cannabis as a business. This is all well and beautiful, but the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference left very much to be desired. In a sea of suited white men, I wondered “Is this really representative of an industry that continues to incarcerate black and brown men?”

The answer is absolutely not. 

I will even go as far as to say that it was shameful the complete detachment in the room. Millionaires sitting on top of white leather couches telling us all about the billion dollar cannabis industry. And the rooms remained silent, crowds of more business men relating and bonding over a product that so many people I know love. There was no passion, there was no love, there was no personal connection to the plant.

And furthermore, there was no real presence from women. Sure, Women Grow, who did absolutely amazing, did a great job of showcasing a group of women in cannabis. Yet they only had what was given to them, scraps really. Their booth, which was arguably the most entertaining and lively, was all the way in the back. When it should’ve been front and center. When it should have been a whole wall, it was reduced to a single booth. Sure, none of the men in suits seemed to care, but it was a real disappointment as a woman in cannabis to see such a minimal footprint.

Thanks to Women Grow and pushing for more of a presence from women at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference.

 I was absolutely grateful to have attended the “Why the future of investing in Cannabis points to Women – Owned Businesses?” It was amazing to see a strong, well spoken woman on a stage built and meant for men. There is no doubt about the difference in expectations, women are expected to be the sights while men token themselves the brains. But in the boardroom, just like in the homes of millions of Americans, women absolutely run the show. The lack of women and their presence was extremely out of touch and not indicative of the future of the industry.

Women drive a higher percentage of consumer purchasing, but you wouldn’t know this by the swarms and lines of men telling us what WE buy. But consumer reports show that women are the deciding factor in what households are buying. In fact, less than 3% of funding goes to women led businesses. A number that is staggering and sad. Women account for 50% of the population, but if the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference is any indication, the world is run by men.

The word that would describe the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference is definitely bland. 

When it comes to Cannabis, as an industry, many think it is all fun and games. But let me tell you, the suits really know how to make any conversation boring. And so most of the entertainment came on the ground, people watching, and networking. That’s where the real magic happens, and I am grateful and pleased to have met so many women leaders and powerhouses. Edie Moore, Roz Mccarthy, Doreen Sullivan, Jessica Velazquez, names and names of women who are changing the game in Cannabis.

In fact, one of my favorite moments from Benzinga was when Tiffany Woodman, founder of Canna Bella Lux, made it a point to ask Chicago’s very own Jim Belushi about the statistics in women funding. Through the crowd her voice could be heard berating Jim on why he doesn’t mention that women get less than 3% of funding for their cannabis businesses. Something that left poor ol Jim looking flustered and attacked. Just like any man confronted with the inequality that women face. A complete detachment and lack of empathy. The very men needing women to succeed, doing nothing to help them in their own success.

It is not hard to find real women doing real work in Cannabis. Even the women CEO’s featured seemed to assimilate into this “men run it” mentality. Modest in their approach, and careful to not offend, so many women CEOs reduced to “pick me” girls just so that they can be a part of an industry that mocks them. I was not impressed by the blonde women, in their shift dresses and perfectly straightened hair discussing their very feminine logo in a way that men can tolerate. It’s sickening that despite their influence, they would rather join the status quo instead of fighting it.

I think organizations like Benzinga should really take measures to provide a women friendly event. 

A number of stories have come out of women being sexually harrassed, verbally harrasment, subtle tones of misogyny, mansplaining, and a variety of other problems women encounter in social settings that are dominated by men. It’s the lack of access that makes these types of events so intimidating for women, and the lack of support for women in these situations. Overall, there needs to be a more women-friendly environment, something that can only happen when women are at the forefront of putting these together.

I’m sure this won’t be my last post on Benzinga, as there is still so much that I want to discuss. But I felt an urgency in getting this particular post out. Because all you men who attended Benzinga. In your Sunday’s best, expensive watch, and mass produced business card in hand, while you enjoyed the Benzina Cannabis Capital Conference, did you ever once for a second stop and ask, “Where are all the women?”

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