While the legal recreational cannabis industry has become known as a haven for women entrepreneurs and leaders in traditional white collar fields, cannabis cultivation (like its farming relations) has long lagged behind when it comes to gender parity. That’s why Emilyn Bona and Amy Goss, two women cultivators at the Berkshires-based, vertically integrated recreational cannabis company, The Pass, are so passionate about creating a meaningful space at the company for women who want to grow.
“The traditional ‘illegal’ cannabis market has long been supported on the backs of women,” says Bona, who joined The Pass in 2020 after over a decade of growing cannabis at home alongside her other gardening pursuits. “Women, specifically women of color, have always been background players, even though it was women who were doing a lot of the growing and processing for the traditional market.”
With Massachusetts’s legalization of recreational cannabis in 2016, both Bona and Goss jumped at the opportunity to finally start making a career out of their passion for the plant.
“It had been a dream of mine since before legalization to be able to grow cannabis for a living, and I was excited to finally be able to do it legally at The Pass,” Bona says. “Plus it was exciting to work at a company that is both vertically integrated and run by a local member of the community rather than someone who came to Massachusetts for the ‘green rush,’” she says of Berkshire Mountain Distillers owner Chris Weld, the Berkshires native who co-founded The Pass.
Goss, who joined The Pass last fall, got her start in the industry as a lab technician in another cannabis facility in Massachusetts. As part of her training there, she often found opportunities to assist the cultivation team and quickly found that it was the perfect fit.
As part of the small 16-person team of cultivators responsible for growing the farm-to-label cannabis at the heart of all of The Pass’s products, Bona and Goss have become a vital part of the journey from seed to sale. Working together at one of The Pass’s three cultivation sites in Sheffield, the two women spend their days in the greenhouses and fields doing everything from transplanting to maintaining flower beds, trimming, and harvesting cannabis plants.
While just a few years ago the career path they now share was just a dream, now they’re both doing a job they love, with a team they respect, while fulfilling their own passions and helping to create a more equitable industry for the many other women growers who are sure to follow.