Women Leaders Of Cannabis: “Women have to stop selling themselves short”, With Rae Edmiston Co-founder of Kentucky Green Grass

Len Giancola
Feb 19 · 10 min read

Women have to stop selling themselves short. Research what your pay should be and then stick to that when negotiating salary. Ask for raises when appropriate and discuss your pay with your peers. By keeping that information in the dark we are unable to assess the fairness of our wages.


I had the pleasure to interview Rae Edmiston Co-founder of Kentucky Green Grass. Deeply rooted in Appalachia, Rae Edmiston’s family tree is filled with coal miners and moonshiners, neither of which is environmentally sound or provides a sustainable future. As a first-generation graduate, she never would have imagined she’d one day be organically grown hemp and making hemp-derived CBD products. Rae’s goal as Co-founder of Kentucky Green Grass is to leave a better future for my son than my parents left for me. Her work allows me to heal the earth, ease the suffering of its people and cultivate partnerships with other like-minded businesses that will ensure there is a clean, beautiful environment for our children to enjoy.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?

My husband’s brother has been growing medical marijuana in Oregon for the past 10 years, and as soon as Kentucky started its Hemp Pilot program, we began researching hemp seed in Oregon through him. We knew the rich history of hemp in our state; the first hemp that was ever planted in Kentucky was planted about 20 minutes from our home. Therefore, we knew hemp was a plant that would grow well in our climate. We drew upon several generations of farming in my partner's family to begin creating a plan that would ultimately form Kentucky Green Grass.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of our marketing campaigns took us to the green room of eight festivals in Kentucky and Virginia, where we provided CBD lollipops for those performing on the stage. We got to meet some national acts and even brought on a few artists as Brand Ambassadors. We gave out over 1,000 suckers along with education on the anti-inflammation properties of CBD, which are extremely useful to touring bands.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We had been under-watering our seedlings, thinking they were more saturated than they were. At the time, we were just inexperienced. After we figured out the symptoms, we got more aggressive with watering, but then realized the soil had been packed too tightly when we planted them, thus becoming overwatered due to lack of drainage! Somehow we managed to incorrectly water some of the first batches in every way possible. Thankfully, plants tell you what is going on very quickly and we were able to easily recover. This challenge makes you feel so unqualified because it’s something as basic as planting and watering!

Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?

I had been working my “real” job as an IT project manager and during a department meeting, we went around the room saying something about ourselves that most people in the room didn’t know. When it got to me I said: “ My husband and I grow hemp and make CBD oil from it!” For a second it was all still — you could have heard a pin drop and my heart sank — finally, one of my subordinates snickered “Rae’s growin’ weed!” and the whole room collapsed in laughter. I corrected that statement after we all had a good belly laugh about it, but to this day, I think they believe I’m growing more than hemp!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I would have to say that we were very inspired by Skyy Brown, my brother-in-law who taught us all about growing organically, how to make compost tea, and helped us be wary of the pitfalls of a large production. His years of experience in the industry also gave perspective on forming alliances in the community and appropriate wariness when brokering deals. True to form, he always let us have enough rope to hang ourselves, because like most things you don’t learn the lesson if you don’t go through the experience.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Actually, we are knee-deep in our latest addition to the company — a partnership with a processor who is helping us achieve ultimate control over our final product. This vertical integration is a natural progression for small farmers who want to stay competitive in a market that is quickly becoming saturated. We believe that bringing our processing in a house means that our customers are going to experience the best product our strain can produce.

Despite great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry. According to this report in Entrepreneur, less than 25 percent of cannabis businesses are run by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender parity moving forward?

Remove the social stigma. The hemp industry is in the process of creating itself and there is an opportunity to collaborate on standards and best practices, which should mean diversity across the board. Gender aside, there’s a whole generation of black and brown men who have been targeted by law enforcement and locked away who have a lot to contribute to the conversation as well.

Women have to stop selling themselves short. Research what your pay should be and then stick to that when negotiating salary. Ask for raises when appropriate and discuss your pay with your peers. By keeping that information in the dark we are unable to assess the fairness of our wages.

Strategize. We, as women, need to strategize where we are in the industry, especially when working with investors because most of the investors are male and the investing field is male-dominated. Any farm and any business can rupture with a poor choice in who you bring on to finance you.

You are a “Cannabis Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non-intuitive things one should know to succeed in the cannabis industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each.

Know your capacity! Don’t grow more than you can harvest and store, and have a plan for those things before you ever plant your first seed. There’s a fluctuation in how much each plant will produce and it can be double or triple the biomass you expected. This usually happens from growing too fast, we call it, “gettin’ too big for your britches” here in the south, and it has some ugly repercussions. When we went from growing 10 acres to 35, we made adjustments for the growth in our plan, but we were not diligent enough. Most likely, had the drought at the end of that season not killed off a lot of our plants, we would have had to watch them rot in the field anyway for lack of space.

Make education your focus in a promotion. Every time we have a chance to connect with someone we can exchange useful information that they can pass on. In the cannabis industry, we have only captured a small percentage of the market share. Not enough people know, or have been able to experience, the benefits of the plant and so it seems the only effective promotional tool is word of mouth.

It is important to really investigate the land you intend to grow on, what your neighbors are growing, and, if they are spraying chemicals, what your wind patterns are. How does land behave when it rains? Where are the water runoff and pooling areas? What is the impact of driving trucks and tractors on the soil? Will you need to reinforce roads? There’s so much that must be tested and discovered before you ever buy the seed. And, don’t make assumptions. We thought the water was reaching a low area in the field via natural runoff, but there was drainage happening along the way, and those plants were sitting there neglected for a week before we noticed their symptoms.

You have to be willing to dig through the information and sift the garbage from the useful stuff. I never thought I would still be spending hours a day researching how to do this thing or that, but as our company grows, so do our methods of implementing. There are also regulatory changes and their impacts on your business. There’s constant networking, fact-checking, and ultimately doing it yourself to see if it works for your team and your climate.

It never ends. There is no “winter break” or weekends off, it’s not a nine-to-five when you run your own business; but, it is incredibly important for you and your team to find a work/life balance even during peak season. If that means you stagger your planting and your harvesting, so be it. A longer harvest with a less stressed out team means less costly mistakes and a safe work environment for everyone.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?

The most exciting thing to me is that the doors to researching the compounds in cannabis are flinging wide open. A lovely side effect from Cannabis sativa L. national legalization is job creation: all the support roles and infrastructure in each state allows people from all walks of life to start a new career.

In this burgeoning industry that has historically relied on steady hands, attention to detail, and creative minds, women are uniquely positioned to transition into leadership roles more easily, and with less friction than in other more traditional male-dominated industries.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?

As a hemp farmer, there is a danger at the end of the season that you will be tested “hot” or above .3% THC. As it stands the USDA recommendations do not allow for the ability to turn over the “hot” biomass to a processor who could isolate and remove the THC in the wax and the remaining viable compounds could be available for use.

I feel like something else that absolutely needs to change is a better system for testing the plants. Depending on the way it was tested, where on the plant it was pulled from, and at what time in its cycle the plant is in, your THC and CBD levels will fluctuate. The current levels of acceptable THC in our hemp plant need to be raised to a level that takes those things into consideration.

Smokable Hemp is a great way to stop smoking cigarettes. It is an equally effective delivery method as taking oil sublingually, and yet, in some states (Kentucky included), there are strict regulations that prevent the sale of smokable hemp. I have to send it out of state to a processor who can package it and then ship it back to the state to be sold. Selling, in general, is a grey area. Technically, only a processor or handler should touch raw hemp. Just recently, a U.S. state court ruled that a ban on smokable hemp is unconstitutional. Hopefully, cases like this will pave the way for smokable hemp across the U.S.

What are your thoughts about the federal legalization of cannabis? If you could speak to your Senator, what would be your most persuasive argument regarding why they should or should not pursue federal legalization?

Federal legalization with record expungement would return access for federal student loans, voting rights, and good-paying jobs which would be life-changing for many people in America. This process would ease the capacity pressure on our jails and prisons by removing non-violent cannabis offenders, not to mention the impact of housing these offenders with hardened violent criminals. Additionally, more job talent, currently unavailable to recruiters, would open up if cannabis wasn’t a part of the drug screening process..

Today, cigarettes are legal, but they are heavily regulated, highly taxed, and they are somewhat socially marginalized. Would you like cannabis to have a similar status to cigarettes or different? Can you explain?

Coming from a tobacco-growing state, I argue Cannabis should not be regulated like tobacco. For one, cannabis is not a poison. Access to it should not be restricted, whether it's growing your own plant or owning a business involving it. I believe that third party testing is necessary to verify what you are consuming and should be included in an insert or online via QR code or website. I feel like anything we consume should be regulated to some extent, and taxed like everything else in this country. However, heavy taxes encourage people to stick with the black market which is less than ideal for consumers and governments alike.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” The White Queen, Alice Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll

Every day I read something new online, whether it be from social media, news articles, journals, academic papers, the amount of information coming at us can be overwhelming. As you begin to look into any particular aspect from buying seed to selling your harvest, it can feel a little like a tea party in Wonderland with simultaneous and opposing perspectives, experiences, and language. And yet, there’s also a great deal of hope in this quote, which is very necessary in the tumultuous life of a hemp company. You never know from one day to the next what is going to happen!

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

Len Giancola

Written by

Founding Partner of MJ.com

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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