One area woman has received $3.5 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health to study aspects of marijuana. Another is a former martial arts athlete who ran an erotic boutique before seguing into CBD products. And a third is a former Top Chef contestant who infuses marijuana in her food and aims to write a cookbook.

Cannabusiness is attracting women of all backgrounds, from millennials to boomers, from private equity hotshots and serial entrepreneurs to planners of underground pot parties.

Bridget Hill-Zayat, attorney at Hoban Law

Bridget Hill-Zayat didn’t plan on a career in cannabis law. When she started out, the field barely existed. She was a corporate attorney who represented energy suppliers when a client asked her to check out an anomaly. A residential customer inexplicably was using megawatts of power. The client couldn’t figure it out.

“I went to do a site inspection and it turned out to be … a marijuana grow,” she said.

Her first encounter with weed world piqued her interest.

“The customer was paying 14 cents a kilowatt hour. But if they had asked for the commercial rate, they’d have paid $5,000 less a month,” she said. “So it began an interesting legal exercise to me. I thought I could make this better. I could figure out the rules.”

Hill-Zayat earned her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and her J.D. from Rutgers University. Since 2016, she’s been with the Hoban Law Group, a national cannabusiness firm. She maintains a portfolio that includes growers, dispensaries, and ancillary firms with licenses in several states. ”A lot of what I do is serve as liaison between the businesses and the regulators,” she said. “Many times I have to explain the market to the regulators.”

Since May, she also has served as the executive director of the Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Trade Association. She also finds time to teach cannabis business courses at Stockton University in New Jersey.

She doesn’t consider herself a cannabis enthusiast. “It’s not like I was ever a patient or had a sob story. I just liked that it was a new field. I could learn it from the bottom up. I needed something that was truly interesting,” she said, “and cannabis more than fit the bill.”

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