As cannabis has entered the mainstream, its demographic of use has changed and molded drastically. The substance has become approachable for more people, expanding into even boutique bakeries. Founded by Karin Lazarus in 2010, Sweet Mary Jane utilizes handmade treats to make the substance as approachable as possible. Since its founding, the bakery has won numerous awards, including the 2017 THC Championship Best Edible, and Karin Lazarus was even featured in the documentary Mary Janes: Women in Weed. We had the opportunity to speak with Lazarus about her work in edibles and how gender dynamics in the cannabis industry are unique differ compared to others.
Cannabis & Tech Today: Can you tell me about the inception of Sweet Mary Jane?
Karin Lazarus: Baking has always been a part of my life; I have loved it since I was a little kid. The idea of opening a marijuana bakery snuck up on me so quietly, I can’t say exactly when and how it took hold. I read an article about the health benefits of cannabis and I became intrigued with the idea that this plant could improve lives.
In 2009, I entered the Scharffen Berger’s Chocolate Adventure Contest and won the grand prize. This was my ticket to entering the cannabis industry. Of course, this was a bit scary back in 2010 – this was unpaved territory and I was unsure of how to navigate it. But I did it. I went ahead and found a space to rent (no easy task back then), applied for my MIP (marijuana-infused products) license, and started testing recipes. I baked, packaged, and brought the products to dispensaries to try out. They sold and they are still selling.
C&T Today: What has your experience been like breaking into this industry?
KL: It’s been a roller coaster! I didn’t realize when I started that the ground was still shifting beneath us. But I’m glad I didn’t know; I may not have chosen to go down this path. Change is something I have come to expect and have become adept at. Changes in rules and regulations, the labeling requirements, seed-to-sale tracking, the packaging, testing, having to mark each edible with the THC symbol (this one was very challenging for us), are all big things that were not in place in the beginning and have now become mandatory.
C&T Today: Why is gender parity in the cannabis industry so important?
KL: Greater gender equality in the cannabis industry fosters more inclusive growth, because women are more likely than men to invest in the human capital of their employees, customers, clients, and vendors. At Sweet Mary Jane, we take every single call from patients who reach out to ask us questions about our products; we spend time on the phone with them and let them know they matter to us. I have found that women tend to keep ego out of the equation. The women at Sweet Mary Jane are ethical, want to do good work, and create products that they are proud of. They’re not looking for a shout out every time they make something beautiful. Although our crew is made up of mostly women, I do want to say that the men working here also apply that same code of ethics to their jobs.
C&T Today: How do gender dynamics in the cannabis industry differ from other industries, say the tech or business worlds?
KL: The tech and business worlds illustrate the persistence of inequality between men and women in the 21st century. Women opened the door to the cannabis field, confidently stepped in, and brought it to light without shutting anyone out. Women dominated this field for quite some time; however, the percentage of women-owned companies has fallen off, more men have entered the field, and sadly, because of the social policy problem, men have a much easier time attracting investors.
Feature Image: One of the many convections of Sweet Mary Jane (Courtesy of Karin Lazarus)