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Aug. 27, 2019, 8:22 a.m. EDT

This woman in cannabis made an early bet on the sector that has paid off

In 2011, Cassandra Farrington of MJBizDaily took a gamble on Colorado’s nascent medical cannabis scene

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By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch

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The bulk of the revenue comes from the conference business, which comprises three large expo-type events, including MJBizCon. The company also produces two symposium conference events, one in Europe and one in Latin America, tapping into the two markets that are widely expected to be the next growth opportunities.

In case you missed it: This company wants to be the Bacardi of cannabis — and it has plans for an IPO

Farrington views herself as a media and a cannabis executive and concedes that as a woman she faces certain challenges. “Being a woman this business is like being left-handed in a right-handed world,” she said.

Read: Short sellers are increasing bets that cannabis stocks will fall

Still, the industry is sufficiently open to women that they now account for 37% of cannabis business executives, according to Eli McVey, research editor at MjBizDaily, who says that is more than can be found in businesses in the traditional economy.

Farrington says the legacy, male-dominated playing field seen in so many other industries has not had time to establish itself, and she is optimistic it never will.

“I see the marijuana industry as a harbinger of what’s to come in the broader economy as those playing fields are changed by retirements, job changes and other changes,” she said.

Minorities seeking a foothold in the cannabis sector are also better positioned today than they were five years ago, thanks to the growing trend among states that have legalized or are trying to do so to adopt social equity policies that aim to compensate those who suffered disproportionately during the war on drugs.

Don’t miss: People of color are reclaiming their place in a cannabis industry ‘built on the backs of people from marginalized communities’

“There is a trend toward people who are poor or have arrest records to be offered opportunities and states want to enshrine that in laws,” said McVey.

Farrington agreed and said it’s a conversation that keeps happening and that people are sitting up and taking notice.

“It was not happening even a few years ago, but it is a topic now and politicians like Cory Booker (Democratic Senator for New Jersey) are making sure it stays in the conversation.”

Like many in the cannabis sector, Farrington is expecting the U.S. government to eventually drop the federal ban that has complicated the development of the legal sector. Companies are locked out of capital markets and big banks are reluctant to do business with them for fears of federal enforcement actions.

See now: Cannabis companies are having a horrible summer as scandals mount and stocks slide

Efforts to protect banks that want to serve the sector in states that have legalized are focused on two bills, the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in March that would protect banks and their employees from liability for federal prosecution when servicing cannabis companies; and the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which would give each state the right to determine its own approach to cannabis legislation.

‘I see the marijuana industry as a harbinger of what’s to come in the broader economy as those playing fields are changed by retirements, job changes and other changes.’

Cassandra Farrington

Whatever happens, Farrington is comfortable knowing that however the industry develops, MJBizDaily will be in the middle of it, helping individuals set up and run their businesses.

Korey Bauer, portfolio manager of the Cannabis Growth mutual fund /zigman2/quotes/208282024/realtime CANNX +1.90% launched by Foothill Management, said Farrington has already achieved a great deal.

“I’m an avid reader of the site, it’s great research and great content and a very interesting analytical view of the industry,” he said.

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The ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF /zigman2/quotes/204332491/composite MJ +1.99%  has gained 3.4% in 2019, while the S&P /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +2.28%  as gained 16% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 12%.

US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 3.22
+0.06 +1.90%
Volume: 0.00
April 2, 2020
US : U.S.: NYSE Arca
$ 10.77
+0.21 +1.99%
Volume: 604,818
April 2, 2020 8:00p
+56.40 +2.28%
Volume: 3.87B
April 2, 2020 5:11p

Ciara Linnane is MarketWatch's investing- and corporate-news editor. She is based in New York.

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