The demand for female representation in the workplace has significantly increased over the past decade; however, many industries continue to struggle to create gender equality within their companies, especially at the executive levels. The cannabis industry, however, has incorporated female influence and leadership since its’ start.
The cannabis industry has been a haven for a substantial number of female executives, creators and small business owners within the market; but it’s important to continue that momentum and provide more options and career opportunities as cannabis acceptance and legalization becomes popular with more states across the nation.
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History of Women in Cannabis
Women have been cultivating, using, and advocating for cannabis since ancient Egypt. From a female Pharoah named Hatshepsut to Queen Victoria, many famous women of our past have used hemp for medicinal purposes, specifically to relieve menstrual cramps and alleviate childbirth symptoms for new moms.
Several female writers have also spoken out in favor of using hemp as a treatment for ailments. For example, a German nun named Hildegard von Bingen who wrote Physica and Little Women author Louisa May Alcott described hash experimentation in a positive light while writing her book Perilous Play.
Margaret Mead comes to mind in more recent times as she fought the War On Drugs in the 1960s and even testified to Congress on behalf of cannabis legalization. In short, women have been fighting for marijuana rights since societal recordings began to mention cannabis.
There are many areas within the industry of cannabis in that women have greatly contributed. Here we list a few specific sectors within the industry where a woman can certainly thrive; however, we recommend stepping out of the box and entering any field that speaks to your talent and passion.
- Creating & Developing
- Marketing & Sales
- Cultivation & Production
- Management & Organization
Top Cannabis Business Women
These are the women at the top of the game within the weed industry. From founders and CEO’s to cultivators, creators, and those involved in advocacy and education for their communities, these women are inspiring members of the cannabis space and culture.
Emily Paxhia is the co-founder of Poseidon Asset Management along with her brother, Morgan. They created the company in 2013 after witnessing the toll opioids and other prescription medications can have on cancer patients. According to hospice nurses she spoke with, fifty percent of patients already use cannabis for comfort.
While it was initially difficult to obtain funding for cannabis-related investments due to federal politics and regulations, Emily and Morgan started small, worked their way up, and now have over 150 million in cannabis investments. They are trusted investors for famous start-ups such as Meadow, Flowhub, and Headset.
Wanda James is the CEO and co-founder of Simply Pure Dispensary and the president of the Cannabis Global Initiative. CGI provides consultation and other related services for cannabis businesses within the private and government sectors. She and her husband, Scott, were the first African Americans to own and operate a state-licensed dispensary within the U.S. She is also a Navy veteran who advocates for cannabis use among veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Maha Haq’s mother caught her smoking cannabis at 17 and demanded that her daughter write a research report defending the behavior. It’s important to note that her mother was a clinical researcher. Through that experience, Maha became educated on the health benefits of cannabis and then embraced a journey that led her to become the Founder and CEO of Cannaclub University and CREA (Cultivating Research, Education, & Advocacy.) They are collegiate organizations focused on cannabis education, activism, and providing opportunities for the newer generations.
Her mission is to empower students interested in the cannabis and botanical plant industry while making a positive social impact and eliminating the stigma through education.
Ophelia Chong has used her voice and platform to showcase the positives of cannabis use and therefore change public perception of the plant itself. She is a community leader and activist, an educator, and a talented artist. Her innovation led her to become the founder of Stock Pot Images and Asian Americans for Cannabis Education.
Chong has served as the Community Outreach liaison for THC Design, one of California’s premium cannabis growers. Her organization partners with LGBT, Veterans, Women, Minorities, and Disabled outreach programs. Ophelia Chong has played a vital role in changing the negative stereotype that cannabis users face. She feels it is essential to showcase that cannabis is medicine and help the scientific community realize this as well.
Jessica Billingsley is the CEO of Akerna and a prominent businesswoman within the cannabis industry. Akerna is a cannabis compliance technology company and the first ancillary cannabis business included on the NASDAQ.
Jessica serves on the Advisory Board for Marijuana Business Daily, a well-known source of relevant cannabis education and current events. In 2015, Fortune named Jessica one of the Most Promising Female Entrepreneurs, and in 2018 she was named one of Inc. Magazine’s 100 Female Founders. Most recently, she would join the Entrepreneur’s list of 100 Powerful Women in 2019.
Zoe Wilder is a public relations specialist committed to bringing awareness to the benefits of CBD through her platform and connections. She’s well-known across the nation and is admired for her innovative PR style. She has dedicated a large part of her eighteen-year career to paving the way for cannabis advocates, artists, and marketers.
Throughout her fantastic career, Zoe Wilder has worked with hundreds of clients across industries, including cannabis, technology, wellness, art, and alcoholic beverages. Her work has launched the careers of successful cannabis brands while also maintaining a voice that champions small businesses and philanthropists within the cannabis space. Her support and contribution to the cannabis industry in California have made a considerable impact there and created a lasting ripple effect.
Dr. Chanda Macias has utilized her skills and growing platform to educate and connect medical marijuana patients as well as to empower women and minorities within the cannabis industry for well over a decade. In 2015, Dr. Chanda Macias founded the National Holistic Healing Center.
She became the CEO of Ilera Holistic Healthcare in 2019. In addition, she also serves on the Board of Directors for the Minority Cannabis Business Association and is CEO of Women Grow. She is one of the most significant cannabis and diversity advocates in America and even the world.
Mara Gordon is a process engineer well-known for her cannabis advocacy and research, using her expertise to create more accurate dosing formulas for medical cannabis patients worldwide. Gordon co-founded Aunt Zelda’s, a collective that brings custom cannabis regimens directly to patients.
Gordon continues to be a passionate advocate for pot, having given many international presentations and TEDx Talks about the plant and its benefits. Films like The Medicine in Marijuana and Mary Janes: Women of Weed also featured Gordon’s contributions and invite her to speak in their documentaries.
Rosie Mattio is a marketing firm owner and mother of four who resides in Seattle, Washington. She is a bodybuilder and has taken part in many fitness competitions across America. To aid her training and help her win her first competition, Rosie decided to swap out alcohol for cannabis in her daily life. When she moved to Seattle in 2014, Washington had just legalized cannabis, and Rosie decided to capitalize on the emerging cannabis industry in the state.
At that time, there were no mainstream Public Relations firms that were focused on cannabis, so she founded MATTIO Communications of which she is CEO. The New York-based marketing firm works with several clients worldwide and is widely successful in the U.S.
Co-founded by Cyo Nystrom and her partner Rachel, Quim’s is on a mission to deepen your connection with your own body and empower you to care for it in ways that may not be mainstream just yet.
She began using cannabis to heal from urinary tract and yeast infections, as the women in her family are significantly susceptible to them. Quim supports anyone with a vagina and any humans without vaginas who support those with them. Whether a woman may have endometriosis or regular menstrual aches and discomfort, Quim has a product to offer anyone pain relief.
Hope Wiseman is the youngest Black female cannabis dispensary owner in the United States. Located in Maryland, Mary & Main services the community in which she was born and raised. She is dedicated to uplifting Black entrepreneurs within the industry and educating people about the plant’s medicinal benefits.
Christine De La Rosa
After discovering cannabis helped her with symptoms of Lupus, Christine De La Rosa created The People’s Dispensary as a way to share the benefits of cannabis with her surrounding communities. Today, her cannabis brand operates all over the country.
Through her dispensaries, she has made it her main focus to make medicinal cannabis accessible to any marginalized community that has been ignored by the mainstream industry. Christine is also a dedicated advocate for making social equity a reality. Her dispensaries provide a platform to speak for, educate, and empower those most harmed by cannabis criminalization.
Is the Future of Cannabis Female?
A 2020 study showed that women held nearly 30 percent of executive-level positions within the cannabis industry. For perspective, the national average of female leaders for other sectors in 2020 was 13 percent. However, the 2021 Women and Minorities in Cannabis report showed that the number dwindle even further down to 22 percent of female executives within a cannabis business.
Considering the national average is now 30 percent for most U.S. businesses, that’s a disturbingly low percentage. Despite these figures, it’s essential to recognize that many female founders and leaders are currently in control of some of the most influential cannabis companies in the nation.
Despite the figures mentioned above, it’s essential to recognize that many female leaders are currently in control of some of the most influential cannabis companies in the nation. Today’s cannabis industry wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for these innovative and creative trailblazers who’ve committed their time and resources to supply consumers with high-quality weed products and improving the overall marijuana market. It’s crucial that women continue to receive and create career opportunities in the cannabis space to ensure the success of the weed business.