Women continue to be the fastest-growing demographic in cannabis consumption, and reports from the past two years have shown that increasing numbers of people feel more comfortable purchasing cannabis from women-owned brands. But whether you are buying consumables from ganja goddesses, or doing business with the fabulous females leading the evolution in ancillary spaces, it's clear that women are paving the way for the future of the plant revolution.

For our Honey Spotlight - and Women's History Month - we reached out to some of the top communicators, service providers, and brand innovators in our community. They opened up to us about their inspirations, their ambitions, and what nobody else talks about when it comes to being women entrepreneurs in the cannabis space. We're thrilled to give these ladies their flowers.

Sonia Hendrix calls her entry into the cannabis space “a happy accident.” She founded her company GALLERY PR in 2017, after years working New York fashion publicity. As California was set to legalize recreationally, the professional was approached to help a cannabis brand with a broadcast. It was easy to do, since Hendrix had built up a fantastic network after representing celebrity brands and her contacts understood her mission. 

“I had no qualms whatsoever about promoting weed to media,” she says, “because I live with a chronic disease that, left unchecked, can absolutely kill me one day. On my worst days, cannabis is what helps me get out of bed in the morning. People deserve safe access to that.”

What Empowers Sonia Hendrix?

Hendrix had the entrepreneurial spirit from a young age; the daughter of two chefs, she grew up working at the family restaurant in North Carolina. “The front door of my home opened up into a prep kitchen,” she remembers. “I didn’t have a refrigerator, I had a shelf on a commercial-grade walk-in fridge. Very humble beginnings. Not poverty-level, but definitely working class. Still, I had an amazing childhood and grew up around loving people who were working front and back-of-house at my family’s restaurant, and were really charismatic. Those early years shaped who I am today. My Dad is a musician and so I also grew up singing. All of that just gave me a soul-level love for hospitality, good vibes, and the joy of making someone smile.”

Now, running one of the few Latina-owned PR companies serving cannabis, Hendrix is proud to bring her passion to a still-emerging space. While GALLERY PR has won numerous accolades, including being named the PR Net Awards’ 2023 Next Gen PR honoree, its leader feels her biggest accomplishment hasn’t happened yet.

Instead, she looks to make an impact for the disenfranchised: “The senior citizen from North Carolina, who knows what I do, and wants to talk to me about why she really just wants the right to grow at home. Or… the security guard outside of a Nashville country music hall, who is a part-time policeman and War of Iraq veteran and needs access for his mental health, but can’t because of the law. At the end of the day, those small conversations add up and have a ripple effect, because it informs how I do business [and who I represent].” 

Sonia Hendrix shakes hands with Snoop Dogg at a client's opening event. Courtesy of GALLERY PR.

Sonia Hendrix On Cannabis PR, The Future Of Industry, And Supporting Women In Business

The superstar shared her insights on the cannabis space, including explaining the rollercoaster of cannabis media over the past few years.

HONEYSUCKLE MAGAZINE: What is the biggest challenge to providing PR and media services in the cannabis industry?

SONIA HENDRIX: Can I break it down? In 2018, the challenge was breaking 'pot' stereotypes by rebranding weed and showing the world what cannabis can be. We were making history every single day with media coverage. It was incredible. In 2019, we were still making history every single day! There were no challenges — until, August ‘19 when our entire roster was vape brands and we basically had to go to war with national media after the EVALI crisis broke out. I call that era 'Vapegate.' Every day was a crisis for about three months. I’m very proud of the work we did with [Select co-founder] Cameron Forni that year to leverage every tool in our kit to change how the press spoke about vape technology, what was actually causing the lung disease, etc., and we did. Unfortunately, the broad effect was that the EVALI scare unfairly decimated the THC vape category (at least in the legal market).

In 2020, [the challenge] was using PR to work cross-functionally with lobbyists, nonprofits, and lawmakers to protect people’s access to cannabis during COVID; then soon became creating spaces for creativity and happiness to be found at the intersection of our clients and the press. In 2021, the challenge was producing events that enticed people out of their homes without endangering their health, and resulted in coverage for our clients. The inventory for cannabis media coverage also became more competitive due to COVID-19 and a spike in new dispensaries, new brands, more rapper/celebrity weed brands, etc. In 2022 and 2023, the challenge has very much become producing media moments that are positive and not weighted down in a market that has become depressed due to overtaxation, over-regulation, unfair market practices, and a thriving illicit market.

Today, the challenge has become identifying a company that excites me! There are a few gems. I look for companies that don’t put their chips in one basket, that intersect fashion, tourism, hospitality, design, art, and have global reach.

What do you wish more people knew about your job?

The best publicists, in my opinion, are deep thinkers, empathetic, engaged, expressive, and do an inordinate amount of reading. Publicity is the art of storytelling and relationships. My all-time favorite quote is this one by Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If I ever become an educator, I would literally start every semester with a class about this quote and what it means. It is the bedrock of public relations. 

What is your hope for the future of New York's cannabis industry?

Anytime I think about cannabis in New York City, I look at it through a global lens. The world still looks to America as the country where dreams are made of and anything is possible. From Budapest to Reykjavik, Berlin to Madrid — New York City is a destination everybody wants to go to! That’s why my hope is the world-class creatives who live in Manhattan and work in hospitality, culinary arts, design, film and health, who have always had a relationship with the plant, are given the opportunity to make their dreams come true at the intersection of cannabis. My hope is lawmakers make the barrier to entry as low as possible and drop taxes significantly.

How do you like to consume cannabis?

Oh, I love this question. It depends on the activity. I like to smoke weed before I go on a long run, but it’s got to be flower and it’s got to be either Sour Diesel or Blue Dream. If I’m sick, it’s a vape. If I’m at a concert, it’s a fat pre-roll. If I’m at the beach, it’s a skinny joint. I absolutely do not like to smoke indica-leaning weed. Not my vibe. I’m a “go-go-go” kind of woman. 

What's your favorite strain? Favorite products to smoke?

Strain: Sour Diesel. Product: Again, it really depends on the activity. Working out versus medical situation versus at a concert versus creative writing or working in Excel. The brands I like for a wide range of reasons are: Abstrakt (Blue Dream), Kush Queen (THC-Infused Bath Bombs), dosist (precision dosing; low-dose), Doja (global access) Hudson Cannabis (grown in New York), to name a few.

You're always eager to uplift other women. What are the best and worst things about being a woman in the cannabis industry?

Honestly... Being a woman in this industry is difficult. Period! Especially in New York. I don’t intend this in a negative way, more-so a reality check that’s not a manufactured response. Not only is cannabis dominated by men, it’s dominated by men who sexualize our bodies to sell weed, who pay men more than women, and who use women to check a box by feigning public support of our gender, while disparaging us behind closed doors. We have very few male allies who are genuine. Anybody who tells you otherwise is ignoring the facts, and the facts are this industry pushes women founders out. Now, that being said, because of this environment any woman I meet, who is still working in cannabis, has my utmost respect right out of the gate. I throw my support to women in this industry. We have to be there for each other and we have to keep it real with each other as well. Women have to take hundreds more VC [venture capital] meetings to unlock VC money. We are constantly underestimated. We have to work harder to earn trust from male investors. 

Women have more empathy for others than most men. That’s one of many reasons why women make incredible budtenders, because we get so invested in our customer’s wellbeing. These days my heart really goes out to women who are budtenders working the counter at one of NYC’s thousands of illicit dispensaries, who [put themselves] at risk for being caught up in a robbery, which ARE rampant. Stay safe out there, ladies. Look out for each other.

For more about Sonia and GALLERY PR, visit gallerypr.com.

*A version of this article originally appeared in Honeysuckle's 17th print edition, featuring Havoc of Mobb Deep. Get your copy now at dispensaries nationwide or click here to order!

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Featured image: Sonia Hendrix, founder of GALLERY PR, 2023 Next Gen PR Awards honoree at the PR Net Awards. Courtesy of GALLERY PR.