The Future of CBD: A Space For Women Innovators and Investors

Nina Parikh-Thomas is an investor in a CBD products company.

Nina Parikh-Thomas is an investor in a CBD products company.

Make no mistake. There is nothing chill about Reset Bioscience, a company with a line of CBD products centered on your health, wellness and relaxation.

Nina Parikh-Thomas will be the first to assure you this company is relentless in its research and mission to deliver THC-free products to relax you. She is an adviser to Reset, but also a major investor.

“What struck me is Reset approaching CBD and the nutraceutical space leveraging tech in a rigorous way,” says Parikh-Thomas, who has spent 20 years on the commercials side of pharma, including stints at Bristol-Myers Squibb and more, after studying public health at New York University and earning a certificate in health policy at Harvard University.

“What struck me is their vision of rather than being reactive, they are getting ahead in terms of testing and industry research,” she says. 

“For years, experts have predicted that if the cannabis industry expands at its current rate, the American market will reach $20 billion by 2020,” according to Rolling Stone. “But it turns out that one market is spinning off into a mega-industry of its own: according to a new estimate from cannabis industry analysts the Brightfield Group, the hemp-CBD market alone could hit $22 billion by 2022.”

Separate from the larger cannabis industry is the CBD products industry, including Reset Bioscience.

CBD, “a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, has had a surge in popularity over the past couple of years,” Rolling Stone reports.

According to Parikh-Thomas, CBD products are used for anxiety, sleep disorders, patients with epilepsy, cancer, diabetes and more. Because these products do not contain THC, getting “high” is not a side effect.

“This is life science innovation,” Parikh-Thomas says. And she also says it is career space for many women scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs.

“I definitely think its an open landscape,” she says. “The nutraceutical space is a growing area for women interested in tech, science and STEM,” she says. “Consumers are plugged into their health in a different way.”

According to Statista, “It is expected that U.S. consumer sales of cannabidiol – usually abbreviated as CBD – will reach around $1.8 billion by 2022. That would be a massive increase from around half a billion dollars in 2018. Thus, the CBD consumer market is following the trend of the total legal cannabis market in the United States, which is projected to be a $23 billion business by 2025.”

Women entrepreneurs are entering the CBD industry, but there is still a lack of access and parity, specifically for women of color.

Women entrepreneurs are entering the CBD industry, but there is still a lack of access and parity, specifically for women of color. #FutureofCBD #Parity

Read more in Take The Lead on women in cannabis startups

“But the reality is that every year, female representation in cannabis and hemp declines to reflect the “traditional economy” (a.k.a. white males). The latest report from 2018 calculated that only 27 percent of cannabis companies have women in executive positions. As for women of color? That number isn’t even accounted for in the report, but considering that communities of color are the most impacted by cannabis prohibition, this is a stat that demands examination,” Charlotte Palermino writes in Marie Claire.

“Even with dwindling leadership positions and a lack of representation for communities of color, there are women in the space educating, writing, advocating, trailblazing, and making products that are setting the standard for what the industry should look like,” Palermino writes.

Some funders are specifically searching for women entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry. ”Treehouse Global Ventures is a women-led private equity firm focused on investing in cannabis companies founded by women and minorities,” writes Elise McDonough in Leafly.

“For the firm’s founders, it’s a way to give these traditionally disadvantaged groups a fair shot at success in a still emerging industry—and a way to find smart investments. Among their early investments are LucidMood, the women-and-wellness focused cannabis products company; Kind seed-to-sale software; and Stem Holdings, a cannabis-focused retail property company.”

She writes, ”A survey done by Marijuana Business Daily found that the number of women in leadership positions in the cannabis industry actually fell by 9 percent from 2015 to 2017. According to an article in Green Entrepreneur, the legalization of recreational, adult-use cannabis played a role in this shift by prompting an influx of investment dollars from capital markets dominated by men.”

Like most all other industries, the new cannabis industry and CBD products space was quickly dominated by men, earning the nickname “the grass ceiling” for women.

Like most all other industries, the new cannabis industry and CBD products space was quickly dominated by men, earning the nickname “the grass ceiling” for women. #ShatterTheGrassCeiling #GenderParity

Kaley Nichol and Kerrigan Behrens founded  Sagely Naturals in 2015, a CBD products company, according to Forbes.

Nichol tells Forbes, “As women, we felt like all the products were made for men. What if we want something that we can proudly display on our bathroom counters or carry around with us in our purses? There are extremely limited options for this. Most of the branding of products in the cannabis industry continue to be centered around this ‘stoner’ ideal. Instead, we wanted to create an inviting brand that feels therapeutic, familiar, and safe. There’s also the fact that women deal disproportionately with pain, stress, and sleep issues, which also happen to be the top three reasons why people are turning to CBD. Even today, there are no female focused wellness brands in this space (only beauty brands) that are specifically addressing women’s needs with CBD.”

With more women consumers, entrepreneurs, funders and scientists working in this space, the information gap became apparent.

Dr. Junella Chin and Aliza Sherman, set out to solve that problem with their new book, of Cannabis & CBD for Health and Wellness: An Essential Guide for Using Nature’s Medicine to Relieve Stress, Anxiety, Chronic Pain, Inflammation, and More. “It details the history, botany, science, chemical compounds, case studies, and practical uses of cannabis,” writes Elise McDonough in another article in Leafly.

Chim tells Leafly, ‘I think there will be more research into the biosynthetic version of cannabis. If it’s genetically-modified yeast creating cannabinoids, making it in an isolate form with molecular consistency, then the pharmaceutical industry will embrace it and healthcare practitioners will as well. Ultimately I think that’s where it’s going to go: towards the development of pharmaceutical-based cannabinoids.”

For Parikh-Thomas, who has spent her career researching and advocating for public health policy and solutions, she is aligning herself personally and professionally with Reset, a company she says is deeply dedicated to addressing the needs of consumers in health and wellness. And she is doing all she can to mentor other women in the sciences.

“For me, being passionate about health and wellness, I care about good work that is done with research and science. And I am always helping women in their careers.”