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Women in the Weeds at MÜV

By Danyal Swan September 25, 2021

For Women’s History Month, we examined the evolution of women in the marijuana space. We looked at industry leaders, from cannabis event hosting and marijuana edibles producers to educators and industry disruptors. But what about at MÜV?

You’ve seen the front-facing women at MÜV. There are female Patient Care team members and leaders, Cannabis Advisors and Receptionists at all 49 (and counting) dispensary locations, 75% dispensaries of which include a female manager – but what about the MÜV Cultivation Facility? What about the women in the weeds?

Why Don’t You Hear about Women in Marijuana Cultivation?

In the past, growing was thought to be more physical labor – too physical for females. And that’s not to mention the nitty-gritty details.It’s not uncommon for women with plant knowledge to go above and beyond with their knowledge to prove themselves to others in this space.

The industry is rife with stories of men not taking women seriously as cultivators, which is not untrue of other farming, like agricultural. Lorie Fleenor, an eighth-generation farmer in Tennessee, has her husband cover transactions and phone calls for the farm, finding that her description of the status of the farm insufficient, no matter the level of detail conveyed.

As a result, it's no surprise that in cannabis, women were primarily found in the trim rooms, where their eagle eyes and gentle touch perfect the bud prior to it being packaged for sale. But this is the 21st century, and MÜV is 21st century forward-thinking. Forget the glass ceiling – women at MÜV are shattering the grass ceiling.

Fun fact: the Clone Room is comprised of only women.

Women at the MÜV Cultivation

Walking through the facility, you truly see as many men as women. Fully scrubbed up, rolling carts of plants, carrying fresh cuts, and lugging essential equipment. In clone, in veg, in flower and harvest, drying and packaging, trim and prop.

Marina Mikkelsen, Assistant Director of Cultivation, Zasha Ngyuen, Veg and Propagation Manager, and Regan Clement, Propagation Assistant Manager, are three of them.

We discussed their roles and it became abundantly clear –the women in MÜV are committed to building every team member up, regardless of gender, and producing the best cannabis for Floridians.

On What Working in the Cannabis Industry Means:

Mikkelsen: Historically, there hasn’t been a ton of women in the cannabis space; this industry is special to me because my mom grew on the Big Island and was known for having the best flower on it. Working in cannabis now, in 2021, is such an honor. I feel like we [women in cannabis] are helping to break the idea that the business is exclusive to stoner men, and to show all women that have a desire to work in the industry that it is possible.

Ngyuen: This is a new exciting industry. It went from a fringe movement to almost mainstream. It went from underground to the forefront of social acceptability. It is a new frontier that I have a front row seat in helping to transform an industry that was looked down in the past as it undergoes a paradigm shift into a new social order.

Clement: It means I get to be on the brink of a new reality! I feel so lucky to be alive at a time when cannabis legalization and acceptance is expanding rapidly around the world. I feel a great deal of responsibility in the work that we are doing, as it sets a precedent for anyone who may enter the industry in the future. 

On Their Favorite Part of Working in Cannabis:

Mikkelsen: One of my favorite parts of the job is handling the plants. I have high attention to detail; being away from a room for a couple of days, I can walk in and spot a new leaf that’s unfurled, or a plant that needs a little more water. When I worked in California growing, I used to have contests that if my associates noticed anything with a plant before I did, I’d give them a small bonus. It happened once in years.

Another favorite piece that I can’t not mention is the coaching. I love empowering and educating the associates, women and men, teaching the why behind what we do and how we do it. It’s incredible.

Clement: Working hands-on with the plants with regard to pruning, feeding, diagnosing and addressing their [the plants] needs is definitely a favorite of mine.

…this question brings tears to my eyes as I say that my absolute favorite part of my job is knowing that the hard work we put in on a daily basis will translate to a beautiful final product that can bring much-needed relief to patients. I have lost quite a few friends to drug overdoses, all of which were consequences of a market oversaturated with a supply of prescription opioids.Patients have been over-prescribed addictive medication for far too long and it brings me so much joy knowing that the medication we are growing can help someone avoid addictive opioids altogether and potentially save their life. 

Ngyuen: Empowering others with knowledge through detailed proper training. The intrinsic enjoyment of applying a lifetime of farming experience(from my father) and business experience (from my mother), to produce a product from hard work, sweat and a labor of love.

Women can be found deep in the weeds at MÜV, caring for the plant at every stage of its life cycle.

To Those Who Say it’s Too Physical of a Job:

Mikkelsen: Manual labor is part of the job, but to them, I’d say, there’s no sport women can’t play. And, at one point, every career was thought not to be suitable for women and look where we are now. One-third of cannabis business professionals are women, why shouldn’t it be the same for growing?

Clement: I would tell them that's simply not true. We all know women are capable of enduring an insane amount of physical pain and are capable of strengthening their muscles like men are. Yes, growing plants can be very physically strenuous – but it's 2021 and we have tools to make our jobs easier. It is very important to me to ensure my team has the right tools for the job, so we can work smarter, not harder. Utilizing pallet jacks, rolling carts, and a lot of teamwork are all simple solutions to ensure a person of any gender, stature, or adult age can work in this industry as long as they would like to. 

Ngyuen: Speaking for myself, my stamina and endurance matches my other peers. However, working hard is only half of the equation. It is about working smart with dedication and purpose, with loyalty to the mission objectives...these are humanistic qualities irrespective of gender. As a manager, I place a premium on team members with a balance: physical and mental strengths, male or female.

On Being a Woman at MÜV:

Mikkelsen: It is such an honor to work at MÜV – its size is unlike any grow I’ve seen before, and to know I’ve played a role in it is unbelievable…as is the respect I’ve received from both men and women counterparts.

Working in California, a supervisor tried to discourage me from pursuing growing. It’s “too dirty, sweaty and hot” – all because I like todo my makeup and have my nails done. Being at a company that respects me as a person, based on the hard work I do (physical and not) makes all the difference. I can truly say I love my job.  

Clement: With a long history with and love for all things marketing, I was immediately drawn to MÜV when I came to Florida. Then, I took my disabled family member around to all the different dispensaries in our area so they could make an informed decision on where to obtain their medicine. The quality of product, patient access and industry advancements that MÜV puts out is second to none.

I put my heart and soul into everything Ido, and I insist on being a part of a company that does the same, which we [MÜV] do – every single day… I felt ecstatic and optimistic to be a part of such an incredible team of professionals, who work diligently every day regardless of the obstacles in their way to meet and exceed their goals.  

Ngyuen: Horticulture is my lifelong passion. I ran my parent's 200-acre Asian Vegetable Farm for almost 10 years and worked on the farm for over 30. When my father passed from lung cancer, my brothers and I decided to close up shop to give my mom an opportunity to enjoy her remaining years in retirement. And I felt that I wanted to expand my horizons into something that I have been very passionate about: cannabis.  

I have worked for MÜV for over 1.5 years. It's a place where I belong. It's a place that allows me to apply my lifelong training and experiences to fulfill my dreams. I considered the MÜV Team to be part of my family. I intend to give back what it gave me and to build this family to newer heights.

Women in the Lab

MÜV is incredibly proud of our laboratory team. They monitor the plant along every step of its life cycle, ensuring its health and identifying THC/CBD levels and terpene profiles. And – the lab team is made up of exclusively women: Cherina Castillo, Laboratory Supervisor; Natasha Krisan, Laboratory Technician; Marilyn Mendelsohn, Laboratory Technician; and Tori Bedell, Chemist II.

We asked them their thoughts on the cannabis industry, what it’s like being an all-female STEM team, and how their previous experiences in STEM compare to MÜV.

The all-female team monitors the plant along its life cycle, ensuring the highest quality medication for MÜV Patients.

On STEM and How Degrees are Applied in a Cannabis Lab:

Castillo: I graduated from Valdosta State University in Georgia with a B.A in Biology. Even though I am a biologist, there is a lot of analytical chemistry going on behind the scenes.

A couple years ago I could not see how I would be able to fit into the cannabis industry – until I was exposed to the analytical testing side of cannabis. The chemistry and biology behind how these plants grow and behave under the right conditions is just remarkable. Learning to work with our equipment and using them efficiently to give accurate results and information is truly an honor. I have learned so much since I have started working with cannabis, but I know there is always more to learn. 

Krisan: I have my undergraduate degree in chemistry with a concentration on forensic science. The emphasis that is placed on precision within forensics has transferred into the work I perform for the potency side of our in-house laboratory.

This position is vocational for me because it combines my love for analytical chemistry and my passion for cannabis.

Mendelsohn: My degree is in Biology. In our cannabis lab, biology is very important as well as chemistry and math. My main objective is determining the concentration of THC and CBD in our flower and our products. This requires a collaboration of the above-mentioned subjects.

Bedell: I got my Bachelor's in Environmental Studies from Florida State University and my Master's in Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology from the University of South Florida. I was able to combine the two fields of study for various applications in the chemical world of cannabis. From evaluating product potency, terpene profiles and residual solvents using my pharmaceutical background to evaluating plant health and biology using my environmental background, I believe my education prepared me for a wide variety of analytical testing within the cannabis industry.

On Being a Woman in STEM and cannabis:

Castillo: There is no denying that I have one of the coolest jobs in the industry. This just means that I am a part of a new frontier in the area of science that the opportunities are endless. Hopefully, I can grow my knowledge as new information becomes available to the cannabis community and contribute my share as well.

Krisan: It has always been an aspiration and a goal of mine to be a woman in science. This is my first professional position post-graduation, and it has been an amazing opportunity in a growing field supporting a medicine/product that I believe in.  

Mendelsohn: Cannabis is an exciting and inclusive industry. As a woman, I feel blessed and proud to be part of an industry that really makes a difference in the life of those who choose this medicinal route. The process reminds me of farm to table, but instead its farm to medicine. Cannabis has aided family members of mine through some very difficult ailments and so this is a touching career for me. I will always be proud of the work I’ve done in this lab knowing that it can make such a difference for those who need it.

Bedell: To me, being a woman in STEM in the cannabis industry just fits perfectly. Not only is medical cannabis the wave of the future for pharmaceuticals, but women in STEM are also the wave of the future. It is just further proof that with great change comes great possibilities.

On Being at MÜV:

Castillo: I love my job. I wake up every day grateful that I was trusted with the job of Supervising a lab of amazing women. We motivate each other to put out the answers and results that our company needs to keep the quality of our products at the highest standard.

Since moving to this lab I have learned so many new and exciting things about cannabis research and the other amazing women in my lab have helped me recognize just how many of the insecurities that I gained from working alongside only men, were completely inaccurate.  

Krisan: The face of science is actively changing. This has been a male-dominated field for a very long time, and even while I was in school the gender shift was noticeable. I am proud to be on an analytical team comprised entirely of women.

Mendelsohn: As a woman working for MÜV it does not compare to the culture of any workplace I’ve experienced before. I always feel supported, trusted, and safe. We have amazing leadership and a staff below them that enjoys what they do for a living. That seems to make all of the difference. Although I’m a woman, I am treated with the same respect that all employees who work hard receive.

Bedell: Coming from a large-scale laboratory setting where I was the only female formulator in my department, to now being in a much smaller lab with only women has been an incredibly empowering transition for me. My previous (male) supervisor berated me almost daily and felt the need to consistently remind me that I was inferior. The one thing that really stuck with me was being told by my boss that I would never be able to run GC/MS (GasChromatography/Mass Spectrometry) because it was too complex for me. It brings me so much joy to know that I now consistently run GC/MS and analyze the data in my new role.

Since moving to this lab I have learned so many new and exciting things about cannabis research and the other amazing women in my lab have helped me recognize just how many of the insecurities that I gained from working alongside only men, were completely inaccurate.  

The Future of Women at MÜV

Women are constantly being promoted from within at MÜV – and not just in dispensaries. Marina was hired as a Cultivation Specialist. Zasha began in the Veg Department. We love to see and encourage the shattering of the grass ceiling.

Are you ready to plant your roots in the cannabis industry? Head to our Careers page to view all open positions.

Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Contributor for Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.

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