Editor's note: This article was first published April 4, 2017.
WASHINGTON (CIRCA) — When you think of cannabis, it's unlikely you think of moms.
However, women—some of whom are juggling families—hold 36 percent of executive-level leadership positions in the cannabis industry, according to Marijuana Business Daily.
That's significantly higher than the 22 percent average for U.S. companies in general, according to 2014 data published by the Pew Research Center.
Chanda Macias and Leah Heise are among the mothers leading the way in the cannabis industry.
Along with their high-ranking positions in the growing industry, both moms are fighting the stigma often attached to marijuana while also navigating how to talk to their children about their budding careers.
Macias has her Ph.D. in cell biology and owns a medical marijuana dispensary in downtown Washington, D.C. She has four children who range in age from 7 to 28, so Macias has found different ways to approach the elephant in the room—marijuana—with her children and other parents.
"What is good for my older children is not age-appropriate for my son," Macias said. "So, what I did with him is establish different guidelines and boundaries."
Macias talks to her youngest, 7-year-old MJ, about marijuana as medicine. She says MJ isn't allowed to say "medical marijuana" and in their house, that word is equivalent to the "F-word."
"He knows that as a cell biologist, I'm a doctor and doctors give people medicine," Macias explained. "I think with that understanding, he's now able to put pieces of the puzzle together."
For her older children, like 17-year-old Chayla, Macias says she made sure to explain the science behind marijuana and how it can be used as a medicine. Macias says for her it was most important to talk to her children about the different types and how to use it properly because she considers cannabis medicine whether it's used that way or recreationally.
People often think that they are using marijuana recreationally but they're actually treating an ailment, Macias explained.
"They just haven't diagnosed it," Macias said. "They're not aware of why they are using the medicine, but they're using it for a reason, whether it's stress-related or some other reason."
Heise, the former CEO of the organization Women Grow, had written off cannabis in high school but decided to give it a second chance in 2001 when her doctor recommended it.
"They really helped change my mind about this plant as a medication and even as a social use."
Heise grew up during the Reagan era, so she had trouble kicking the idea that cannabis was going to fry her brain.
But it was Heise's twin daughters, who are now seniors in high school, who helped change her mind about marijuana. Now, Heise uses medical marijuana to help ease the pain from her chronic pancreatitis.
Heise adds that she thinks it's time for parents to start educating their children about this plant.
"We’ve spent so many years demonizing a plant that we need to start overcoming that and educating our children, similar to how we educate them about alcohol or aspirin use," Heise said. "Just have a very open and honest conversation."
Both women have experienced their fair share of skepticism from other parents who don't necessarily understand or approve of their career paths. Heise and Macias, however, say they try to educate the so-called "haters" on the medical benefits of marijuana.
"I don't try to convince," Macias said. "I try to educate and then I let them make their own decisions based upon it."
Heise says sometimes that information is more well-received when it comes from another mother.
Because of that, Heise says she thinks moms will be the guiding force when it comes to changing cannabis laws.
"I think that once moms become very educated that their kids are not going to be stoners—that it's an actual valid, viable medication that's very helpful to hundreds of thousands of families that I know—we can change it and we need to bring our voices to Congress," Heise said.
These women entrepreneurs will completely change how you see the marijuana industry
A weed massage? Cannabis oil is taking the physical therapy world by storm.
The latest trends in cannabis tourism combine art, wine and wellness retreats