Women in Cannabis Making History: 25 Influential Entrepreneurs, Advocates, and Industry Leaders
Women in cannabis are transforming the industry into a safer, more profitable, and increasingly equitable space for everyone. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’d like to celebrate the following women leaders, entrepreneurs, and advocates who make history all year long.
Loriel Alegrete knows what it is like to be targeted by the war on drugs. Driven by personal legal experiences and an unmitigated desire to advocate for the men and women in prison for nonviolent cannabis activities, Loriel launched 40 Tons in 2020 with her husband, Anthony Alegrete, and Corvain Cooper, who was released on clemency this year after previously facing a life sentence for a cannabis-related conviction. This advocacy group fights for cannabis legalization, reduced sentencing for non-violent cannabis offenses, rehabilitation for former prisoners, and restorative justice in response to the war on drugs’ extensive damage.
Chanda Macias, MBA, Ph.D., has leveraged her skills and platform to educate medical marijuana patients and empower women and minorities in the cannabis industry for over 15 years. Dr. Chanda founded the National Holistic Healing Center in 2015 and became the CEO of Ilera Holistic Healthcare in 2019. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Minority Cannabis Business Association and is CEO of Women Grow.
Christine De La Rosa
After her personal discovery of cannabis, which she used as a tool for her Lupus diagnosis, Christine made it her mission to share the plant with her community by creating The People’s Dispensary. Today, her cannabis brand is a multi-state operation dedicated to making cannabis medicine accessible to the marginalized communities most often ignored by the regulated industry. Christine is also a passionate advocate for social equity, using her brand and platform to empower the communities most harmed by the criminalization of cannabis.
When Emily Paxhia’s parents were diagnosed with cancer, she became an all-in cannabis supporter, eventually launching Poseidon in 2013 with her brother. One of the first cannabis investment funds of its kind, Poseidon has established itself as a trusted industry player under Emily’s leadership. Since its formation, Poseidon has invested in groundbreaking cannabis startups including Headset, Flowhub, and Meadow.
Erin Gore, alongside Karli Warner, founded the Garden Society, a craft cannabis brand that strives to show women how they can incorporate cannabis into their daily lives. Scientist, advocate, author, and entrepreneur, Erin is a champion for all women in cannabis, from the consumer to the business-owner, using her brand, speaking engagements, and writing to normalize the cannabis plant.
Hope Wiseman opened Mary and Main in late 2017 at only 25 years old, making her the youngest Black dispensary owner in the country. A proud graduate of Spelman, the oldest HBCU for Black women in the United States, Hope uses her position in the cannabis industry to empower communities of color and to herald the economic opportunities the burgeoning industry presents to those brave enough to enter it.
Wielding a pen, a recipe, and a wine glass, Jamie Evans uses her voice and imaginative recipes to write a stigma-shattering narrative celebrating the gourmet side of cannabis. Jamie founded The Herb Somm, a lifestyle brand and blog featuring cannabis recipes, wine, food, and CBD. Along with her blog, Jamie is a frequent contributor to POPSUGAR, MARY Magazine, and the Clever Root. She plans to release her next book, Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home, in April 2021.
Jessica Billingsley is the CEO of Akerna, a cannabis compliance tech company and the first ancillary cannabis business to be listed on the NASDAQ. In addition to her role as CEO at Akerna, Jessica also serves on the Advisory Board for Marijuana Business Daily. In 2015, Fortune named Jessica as one of the Most Promising Female Entrepreneurs. Three years later, she was named as one of Inc. Magazine’s 100 Female Founders and in 2019, Jessica was named to Entrepreneur’s inaugural list of 100 Powerful Women.
Before entering the cannabis space, Jill Ellsworth launched two businesses in the food and beverage industry: first, an organic juice company, and then a beverage distribution service. With experience removing mold from fruit, Jill teamed up with a friend to develop the WillowPure system, a microbial cleansing technology specifically designed to remove mold from cannabis flower without compromising terpene integrity. Willow Industries is dedicated to helping cultivators provide clean, safe cannabis to consumers.
A creative and environmentalist, Kayla Clements became familiar with the healing power of cannabinoids when she embarked on her own journey toward improved health and wellness. Kayla is the founder and CEO of Luna Volta, a cannabis brand selling sustainably grown and packaged wellness products “inspired by the Earth, the Moon, and the Stars.”
In 2017, Gia Morón joined forces with Women Grow, bringing over 25 years of experience in public relations, corporate engagement, and investment to the team. As the Executive Vice President for Women Grow, Gia manages the organization’s communications, programming, operations, and strategic partnerships.
Leah Mauer became an industry activist after enduring the traumatic impacts of cannabis criminalization firsthand. In 2009, Leah experienced a home invasion and raid for growing medical cannabis. She then dove into cannabis advocacy, campaigning for Oregon’s Measure 91 and eventually launching The Weed Blog, a premier platform for cannabis advocacy, journalism, and culture.
As an alternative to pharmaceuticals, Lolita Korneagay turned to cannabis to deal with the symptoms of several painful medical conditions. The confusing experience of navigating medicinal cannabis inspired Lolita to create Cansoom, a platform that provides healthcare professionals with medical cannabis training and links patients with cannabis consultants so they can make informed decisions about their medicine.
When Maha Haq’s mother, a clinical researcher, caught her smoking cannabis, she demanded that her daughter write a research report defending the behavior. Through that experience, Maha educated herself on the pharmaceutical benefits of cannabis and embarked on a journey that led her to create Cannaclub, a national, multi-campus student organization focused on cannabis advocacy, education, and opportunity.
With over 15 years of experience advocating for social justice in the public and private sector, Mykel Selph has established herself as an authoritative thought leader advancing social equity in the cannabis industry. As Vice President of the Social Equity and Education Development (SEED) at Cresco Labs, Mykel oversees initiatives designed to connect the communities most harmed by the war on drugs to the economic opportunities created by legal cannabis.
Establishing industry-wide cultivation practices is an especially difficult challenge for cannabis producers in the U.S., as cannabis is legal in most states but illegal at the federal level. To solve that problem, Priscilla Agoncillo founded the Original Breeders League, a collective of expert cannabis cultivators working together to develop the safest and most innovative cannabis cultivation practices in the global market.
Speaker, cannabinoid medicine specialist, and endocannabinologist, Dr. Rachel Knox belongs to a family of doctors—the Knox Docs—who disrupt conventional medical education by exploring the use of cannabinoid medicine to promote endocannabinoid health. Dr. Rachel is a co-founder of the American Cannabinoid Clinics and Advent Academy, chair for the Oregon Cannabis Commission, and a medical committee chairperson for the Minority Cannabis Business Association.
When Roz McCarthy founded Minorities for Medical Marijuana (M4MM) in 2016, she was one of very few advocates specifically working at the intersection of cannabis legalization, health care, and racial justice. As CEO of M4MM, Roz has devoted herself to educating marginalized communities about the benefits of medical marijuana and promoting social equity in the cannabis industry.
Sailene Ossman experienced the therapeutic power of cannabis after surviving a nearly fatal car accident. As the founder of Glowing Goddess Getaways and through the Merry Jane network cooking show, Smoke in the Kitchen, Sailene has used her voice and experiences to empower people—especially women—with knowledge of cannabis’ powerful therapeutic capacity. Sailene is also the author of CBD Cocktails: Take the Edge Off with Over 100 Relaxing Recipes.
In 2020, Sara Gullickson became the CEO of the Cannabis Business Advisors, a consultation firm working with prospective and current cannabis entrepreneurs. A serial entrepreneur herself, Sara holds cannabis licenses in several states and has spent the last several years developing her international cannabis consulting services across three continents.
Shanel Lindsay relates to cannabis consumers who struggle to dose their medicine or properly decarboxylate their flower without losing terpenes and cannabinoids. As a cannabis patient, Shanel was determined to find a way to make cannabis dosing simpler for cannabis users. In 2015, she founded Ardent, a technology company creating a decarboxylator that patients can use to dose and activate their medicine safely at home.
When Rosie Mattio moved to Seattle in 2013, she saw cannabis brands’ diverse marketing needs and was inspired to help these emerging companies. As the founder and CEO of MATTIO Communications, a New York City-based marketing and communications firm, Rosie decided to shift into the cannabis space and make waves in the industry.
As a Crohn’s patient, Timeka Drew personally benefited from the healing powers of cannabis. The relief she experienced inspired her to open Green Medicine Group, a medical consultancy service connecting patients with doctors who could refer them to cannabis. Timeka acquired a social equity license, launched top-shelf pre-roll brand Biko Flower, and also co-founded Our Academy, a non-profit mentorship program for minority entrepreneurs in cannabis.
When Wanda James and her husband, Scott Durrah, opened Simply Pure Dispensary in 2010, they became the first African Americans in the United States to operate a state-licensed dispensary. Wanda is a true leader in the cannabis community, serving as CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary and also president of the Cannabis Global Initiative, a consultancy working with stakeholders in the public and private sector. A Navy veteran, Wanda has spent over a decade fighting for cannabis patient rights, especially for veterans suffering from PTSD.
When Whitney Beatty first entered the cannabis industry as a consumer looking to manage her anxiety, she found that cannabis users lacked elegant options for product storage. Whitney created The Apothecarry Case, a high-quality cannabis organizational system to offer cannabis consumers a stylish solution. Whitney is dedicated to redefining the narrative around cannabis consumption so that anyone who uses cannabis—from working moms to aging seniors—can take pride in belonging to the cannabis community.