We live in an exciting age of transformation. People around the world are shaking off unjust and unfounded perceptions of the past and taking control of their own lives.
Women and BIPOC are some of the leading entrepreneurs, scientists, and business owners in many new markets. Let’s take a look at 10 women who have transformed the cannabis industry and how they did it.
1. Dr. Chanda Macias
Dr. Macias began her career in science and plant medicine by graduating with a PhD in Cellular Biology from Howard University, and has continued to support the education of others in STEM fields. What began with the study of cancer eventually led her to step into the cannabis industry. She works to promote a natural product that she’s discovered can improve the quality of life for many.
The list of accomplishments is long for Dr. Macias, who eloquently juggles the roles of entrepreneur, educator, scientist, and social icon. Some of her accomplishments include:
- Serving as the Vice-Chair of the National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR) Board
- Founding National Holistic Healing Center Medical Marijuana Dispensary (NHHC) in Washington D.C
- CEO of Ilera Holistic Healthcare, a company that recently partnered with the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Baton Rouge to create ALAFIA, the first CBD line by a historically Black university
- CEO of Women Grow, an organization helping women enter and thrive in the cannabis industry
- Queen Zulu of the 2020 Mardi Gras parade
2. Wanda James
Having served as a US Navy Lieutenant as well as a member of President Obama’s National Finance Committee, Wanda James has proven herself a strong and capable woman throughout her career. These characteristics were put to work in a different field when she became the founder and CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary. Simply Pure began with The Apothecary of Colorado, the first Black-owned legal cannabis dispensary in the US, and now includes a cultivation facility and an edible company.
Along with her husband Scott Durrah, Wanda James plays a leading role in the advocacy for the legalization of cannabis, racial equity, and small businesses.
3. Maha Haq
Education is key to building and growing any new product or market. This is especially true when it’s first necessary to break down preconceived ideas and past stereotypes like those revolving around cannabis. (Remember Reefer Madness?)
Maha Haq has built her career around cannabis education. She began with founding Cannaclub University at her alma mater UCLA, an alliance for students interested in cannabis science. The organization has since expanded and now has networks across the country.
Haq’s love for science has led her to work at CannaSafe Analytics, an ISO accredited cannabis testing lab. She also works to perpetuate cannabis education by being a keynote speaker as well as an advocate for both women and BIPOC in the field.
4. Mary Jane Gibbson
The cannabis industry may be booming as legalization proceeds and as CBD products rise in popularity, but it didn’t appear overnight. In fact, Mary Jane Gibbson’s career has revolved around cannabis awareness since 2007.
She’s an actress, writer, and editor who has written about cannabis news and culture for magazines like Rolling Stone and Green Entrepreneur. She’s also part of podcasts like Weed + Grub, and travels the world investigating and reporting back the legalization and normalization of the use of cannabis and CBD products.
5. Rosie Mattio
Not only has the understanding and perspective on cannabis changed in the 21st century, but so have the worlds of marketing and information. Rosie Mattio saw the value of combining these industries when she founded MATTIO Communications, an independent marketing and communications firm that works specifically with cannabis and lifestyle companies.
MATTIO covers all marketing bases, from SEO to social media and investments. Services such as these help companies grow their customer base while increasing the normalization and available information on cannabis products in general.
6. Mary Pryor
Mary Pryor has built and grown her career in the cannabis industry through her known strengths and experience and by helping others do the same. She began working in media, but stepped into the world of cannabis when she noticed that cannabis companies needed agencies to represent them. She founded two companies, WeFancy and Urban Socialista, to do exactly that.
Pryor continued this work by encouraging and facilitating diversity in the field. She became the co-founder and CEO of Cannaclusive, and even works on the legal side of the process as the New York Chapter President of Minorities for Medical Marijuana.
Pryor believes that women need more accessibility to executive positions within the cannabis industry and has actively worked to support these goals.
7. Dr. Alex Capano
The societal changes that follow the legalization and normalization of cannabis products are far-reaching, one important area being higher education. Alex Capano became a pioneer in cannabinoid science when she was the first person in the US to receive a doctorate in cannabinoid studies.
Following her schooling, Dr. Alex Capano went on to become the Chief Science Officer of Ecofibre Limited, a company that manages several businesses dealing with the various parts of the hemp industry.
8. Britany Carbone
Britany Carbone found her way into the CBD industry through searching for a natural way to help her own anxiety and depression. She combined it with Ashwagandha and found that the results were exactly what she was searching for.
She launched her company Tonic in 2017 from her mom’s kitchen. Realizing the difficulties of being a female in the market, she formed an all-woman team. Carbone and her husband became some of New York’s first private farmers to be granted hemp licenses when they co-founded Tricollo Farms and Bardo Artisinal Extracts, from which they now source all Tonic product ingredients.
9. Ophelia Chong
Art is a powerful tool to share ideas and emotions with others, and Ophelia Chong has found a way to bring it into the cannabis industry. A graphic designer and an activist, Chong teaches photography and writing while remaining transparent and actively involved in the cannabis industry.
Chong founded Stock Pot Images, a platform for cannabis photography stock photos. She also co-founded Asian Americans for Cannabis Education, an organization educating and empowering Asian Americans within the cannabis industry and connecting communities to perpetuate this.
10. Jessica Billingsley
Women have found their way into the cannabis industry through many different facets, less common areas including technological and financial sectors. Jessica Billingsley’s experience was in computer science and technology, a background which she used to co-found MJ Freeway in 2010. This seed-to-sale software company later became part of Akerna, the first female-owned and operated, publicly traded cannabis company to be traded on the NASDAQ. Billingsley remains CEO of Akerna, which works to connect and consolidate the cannabis supply chain globally and with transparency.
Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.