Updated: Aug 10, 2022
Cannabis has been around for ages in our world history. Getting its start in Asia, the plant is now utilized and consumed by people from all walks of life and backgrounds across the globe.
Though, the industry has been heavily dominated by men, with women taking the backseat. But thankfully, things are changing. Women now make up more than a third of cannabis business executives. With more and more women joining the cannabis industry, we think it’s worth recognizing a few highly skilled women who have been leading the charge.
From lawyers and scientists to activists and top-level executives, the cannabis industry woman comes from different backgrounds with a unique set of skills — many of whom agree with two key things: cannabis should be legalized, and there’s more work to be done. While there are many cannabis mavens, in this article in no particular order we chose to highlight some of the most influential key players in the game right now.
Jessica Billingsley has found her place in the industry by serving as the Chief Executive Officer of Akerna. An innovative enterprise software, Akerna is dedicated to providing comprehensive plant analysis and tracking from seed to sale in the industry. Being the first to do so, Billingsley has been able to decrease the gap of information in supply chain tracking as well as data regarding the plant's incredible genetic makeup.
It should come as no surprise that Fortune named her one of the Most Promising Female Entrepreneurs in 2015. What’s even more? In June 2019, the cannabis software company, Akerna became the first to be listed on the Nasdaq, with Jessica at the helm.
Amy Margolis is a cannabis advocate and lawyer who has founded Oregon’s largest advocacy group, Oregon Cannabis Association. Wrongful criminalization is still affecting people's lives within the industry, so when cannabis was legalized in her state, Margolis knew more work needed to be done.
A policy powerhouse, she has orchestrated workshops across Oregon meant to spread awareness and educate residents on getting their cannabis expunged from their records. Not only this, but Margolis frequently speaks out to lawmakers on issues surrounding cannabis including gender equity, sentencing reform, and more. Recently she created an accelerator meant to help female-founded cannabis businesses achieve success, which includes education, mentoring, and more. This accelerator is called The Initiative, yet prior to her business endeavors, Margolis worked many years as a lawyer, fighting for the rights of cannabis consumers.
For a long time, black communities in America have been the targets of the War on Drugs, often receiving harsher punishments than white people. With cannabis being legal in some states, the racial disparity remains in the cannabis industry, which is predominantly owned by whites. Thankfully, vertebral and former Fortune 100 executive Wanda James is fighting to change all of that.
James made history, being one of the first black women to own a dispensary legally in the US. With the help of her husband, the Simply Pure Dispensary located in Denver, Colorado showcases her ambition to continue fighting for racial justice within the cannabis industry.
As one of the first to capitalize on the CBD craze, Cindy Capobianco knew very early on about the high-end potential of cannabis’ non-psychoactive CBD.
In a brief amount of time, CBD went from an unknown, mysterious cannabinoid to a now popular compound derived from cannabis used to extract and sell. Today, there is a multitude of different CBD products available that all provide unique ways of consumption and target specific benefits and effects on users.
Along with her co-founder Robert Rosenheck, Capobianco created the luxury brand Lord Jones, known for providing lavish CBD-infused gourmet edibles and skincare products. The brand is located in Los Angeles, which is pretty fitting given the fact that California is the land of green. Lord Jones brings together the chill vibe of the West Coast and its growing wellness culture.
Capobianco has made her mark in the high-end CBD market and we are excited to see what her and her team comes up with next.
Doctor Sue Sisley
Psychiatrist and cannabis science thought leader Dr Suzanne Sisley is known for pioneering research — specifically investigating the therapeutic potential of cannabis for treating mental illnesses such as PTSD.
Born with impaired vision from an eye disorder, Sisley knows the importance of treatment accessibility. And since 2009, she has been operating a full-time telemedicine practice as well as educating others in the medical sector about the benefits of cannabis and all the plant has to offer. Her mission? She is working not only to clear up misinformation but to also break the stigmatization and demonization of cannabis.
American cannabis activist, Ann Lee boasts an unexpected profile. As a lifelong believer of propaganda that cannabis was a dangerous gateway drug, Lee’s life would be changed when her son Richard got into an accident. He was left partially paralyzed and with chronic nerve pain. But thankfully after conducting his own research Richard would start medicating with cannabis to ease his ailments, leading Ann on a path of discovery with the plant.
Soon after her son’s nearly fatal accident, Lee became an advocate for cannabis fighting for its legalization finding Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP). In her advocacy, the Republican cannabis reform activist has been fighting the food fight, speaking out publicly to government bodies about its therapeutic potential and racial disparity of the War on Drugs.
As cannabis lovers ourselves, we have been delighted to share with you a little about the women who have been making waves in the cannabis industry. Again, this is not a complete list of all the women within the industry. And while cannabis remains to be a male-dominated industry, we are hopeful that as time progresses, more and more women will join.
Not only will they continue to provide cannabis to the world, but women in the cannabis industry will also continue to make the change that it so desperately needs.