News & Press

NY’s women in cannabis: Elana Tamas

March 20, 2023

As published in the NY Cannabis Insider Newsletter

Elana Tamas is the Head of Cannabis Tax at Anchin. She discusses her journey in the cannabis industry, the barriers to women leadership, and advice for the next generation of women leaders.

Women are vastly underrepresented in cannabis, and not just in New York. From 2019 to 2022, executive-level females have seen their industry wide status drop from 37% to 23%. Yet the MRTA makes things very clear: women-owned businesses are a key component of the state’s social and economic equity plan.

Why did you launch your career in the cannabis industry? Were there any women who inspired you to do so? How did you do it?

I went back to college and got my masters in Taxation in the midst of a divorce, and while my son was quite young. I became fascinated with the taxation of the cannabis industry during my final semester, when I determined to write about the topic for my final paper. I have since that point been passionate about both the complexity of the tax issues and the importance of the social issues that are inextricably linked to the practice. The women that inspire me most are the ones from the previous generations who laid the ground work for women like myself to have a voice, a platform, and opportunity to more freely thrive in a male dominated field.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership? Are the barriers different in cannabis than any other industry?

Barriers to female leadership still substantially exist. It is harder to be taken seriously as a woman. Too assertive and passionate, and she has too much nerve, and if she is less assertive, she is passive and does not have drive. It often feels impossible to be respected.

I believe that this industry is largely male dominated, but everyone is a pioneer, and this evens the playing field more. There are fewer people with expertise, and women who have a mastery of some segment of this industry have more opportunity to be sought after.

What’s the most common behavior or trait that you have seen derail female leaders’ careers, or at least negatively impact them?

I don’t blame women for career derailments.

What are the benefits to having women in leadership? What benefits have you received from your leadership experiences?

The best people should be in positions of leadership. Being that we have to work harder to get the same positions that a man would achieve, we are more appreciative and more qualified generally when we do reach that position. We understand hardship and are often quite sensitive to seeing other people through challenges.

Shout out your other favorite women-owned or women-led businesses in the industry.


What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

You are capable and should believe in yourself. I would tell women to keep lifting each other up, and that the work does not end. Do not get comfortable ever with your rights existing without nurturing the preservation of our equal rights that were so fearlessly and tirelessly fought for.

Is there anything we left out that you’d like to add?

Nothing. I am grateful to have been recommended and I would like to contribute to this however I can.

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