Female entrepreneurs are emerging as major players in the newly legalised cannabis industry taking hold throughout North America. The cannabis industry went legit to varying degrees in many states of the US and in Canada last year, with marijuana legalised for both medical and recreational use in 10 states, plus Washington DC, as well as in Canada. Many other states have legalised the use of medical marijuana.

One interesting aspect of this story is that women are playing a pivotal role as founders and executives in the burgeoning industry. While the hazy pall of stoner smoke still permeates this newly legalised version of the pot industry, there’s a budding section that’s dedicated to all things weed in the name of health and wellbeing.

For millennia, cultures around the world have attested to the benefits of marijuana and related products in treating common women’s health matters like period pain, menstrual cramps and endometriosis. Women, many of them veterans of the legalisation fight along with some newer converts, are taking the age old folk medicine uses of cannabis into the 21st century, with slick marketing and smart sales strategies designed to remove any of the old stigmas attached to its use.

As this blog post at the website Royal Queen Seeds says, “Who better to back mother nature and her feminized plants than pioneering women from across the globe in a variety of different fields and job roles.”

At least at the moment, women are indeed taking on many key roles in the industry. From growers and scientists through to marketers and CEOs, women are represented across the industry at a significantly higher rate than across the US economy generally, with one survey showing 36% of executive roles being filled by women compared to 22% across the rest of the economy.

One of the theories behind this feminisation of the industry is that as a newer industry, with more fluid networks and power bases than traditional industries, women are able to move forward on merit.

“The cannabis industry is so new that there are very few barriers to get in, especially for women,” Giadha De Carcer, the CEO of cannabis industry analysts New Frontier, told CNN.

Speaking to Inc., Cassandra Farrington, one of the publishers of trade publication Marijuana Business Daily, says the industry has fewer systemic barriers to advancement than she found in areas like banking. “I hit that glass ceiling at 100 miles an hour,” Farrington says. “There's no question this is a huge area for entrepreneurship, and there are so many women fed up with the corporate arena.” Another woman told Inc., “There's no reentry barrier in marijuana... you don't even need to know how to code.”

Two of the most powerful women to emerge in the industry are Jazmin Hupp and Jane West, who co-founded the networking and lobbying group Women Grow. Both have been very public figureheads for the cannabis industry as it has sought to become legal in the eyes of the law and respectable in the eyes of the public.

“Media outlets around the world have featured me as an example of a successful cannabis entrepreneur and I’ve been repeatedly called the Martha Stewart of cannabis. But in truth, I’m less like Martha Stewart and more like Hunter S. Thompson engaged in a drug-fueled reimagining of Crate and Barrel [US furniture and homewares retailer],” West says on her blog.

Along with the many other female entrepreneurs diving into the industry with novel spins on the health and wellness angle, there are also the celebrities putting their two cents in. Whoopi Goldberg has launched her medical cannabis range called Whoopi & Maya, in partnership with expert medical marijuana infuser Maya Elisabeth. Fellow comedian Chelsea Handler is also in talks to launch a range of cannabis products in partnership with NorCal Cannabis Company.

With the cannabis industry set to grow immensely over the coming years, as other states also contemplate legalisation and marijuana use becomes more mainstream, will women still play key roles in the industry, or will they be pushed out once the big lifestyle and pharmaceutical companies start to sniff a profit in legal pot?