The number of Women in Cannabis may actually surprise you…
The Cannabis Consumers Coalition has released a 2017 Consumer report that revealed something very interesting about women in cannabis that some in the industry may find surprising; when surveyed, more women said they consumed cannabis than men. A summary of the report states that “…[t]he majority of respondents were women by over a 15% margin… there are a multitude of reasons why there are more women respondents, which we cover in the report. Regardless, the fact that there are more women Cannabis consumers than previously thought shows that women are a force to be reckoned with in the new industry on a multitude of levels.”
You can say that again! And we will. Repeatedly.
Here — in no particular order — are just a few of our favorite Women in Cannabis who are absolutely crushing the game right now!
Denver, Colorado is no stranger to the pioneering spirit; from gold and oil, to tech and real estate, Denver has been in an almost perpetual Boom/Bust cycle since its inception. Now, as Colorado has become the first government in the world to allow legal sales of recreational cannabis, all eyes are on the city and state. Navigating the complex field of legal obstacles to end cannabis prohibition is no easy task. Ashley Kilroy, named by The Cannabist as one of the “de facto mentors for the global marijuana industry,” Ashley has redefined what it means to be ahead of the pack. In the fall of 2016, the city merged the Office of Marijuana Policy and the Department of Excise and Licenses — a move that places Kilroy as director of both. Formally a cannabis policy adviser to the city, Kilroy now enjoys a seat in the mayor’s cabinet. A position she is more than ready for, having held several jobs in Denver city government, including work in the city attorney’s office, on the Career Service Board, and as both deputy and interim manager of the Department of Safety. Ashley is currently leading the Social Consumption Advisory Committee, a workgroup who is combing through the policy language that will be used to implement Denver’s Social Use bill, I- 300, which passed in Nov. 2016. The committee has made recommendations to the Denver City Council, which plans to have another meeting to discuss the city’s social use plan in late Spring 2017.
If it’s true that — as Colorado’s previous “pot czar” Andrew Freedman stated — “We’re making the plane, as we fly it,” then we feel safe flying high in these turbulent skies with Ashley Kilroy at the controls!
A lobbyist and political consultant, Cindy Sovine-Miller is no stranger to complex issues. Much of Cindy’s career has been spent pushing for access to early childhood, K12 education, and various health care industry interests. But recently her efforts have been refocused, as Denver, Colorado, and the nation at large hash out (forgive the pun!) the specifics of voter-approved initiatives regarding cannabis. But she’s not just any lobbyist bouncing off the walls of the state capitol: unlike many of her counterparts working for large trade groups and major brand names, “[s]he spends much of her time working for marijuana patient interests, doing a lot of that work pro bono” according to a recent spotlight in the Denver Westword.
Raised farming and ranching in eastern Colorado, Cindy began supporting cannabis after watching her step-dad’s journey with Lymphatic Cancer, and says that her subsequent exposure to hundreds of medical cannabis patients helped her make that shift. In 2016, she jumped into Cannabis lobbying to help Stacey Linn, founder of CannAbility Foundation, and other families with medically fragile children using cannabis to pass Jack’s Law, a provision that requires schools accommodate children and their caregivers so they can access their medicine at school. Cindy is actively involved in the community and currently sits as the Vice-chair on the Colorado Commision on Affordable Healthcare where she remains engaged in health care reform. She is working to actively organize the patient advocacy community so they can speak with a unified, and amplified, voice on major issues like I300 and social use.
Laurie Zrenda co-founded Thames Valley Alternative Relief in 2013, no small feat in a state that requires dispensaries to be run by a licensed pharmacist! Luckily for medicinal users in Connecticut, Laurie is a licensed pharmacist with almost 28 years of experience working to provide quality, compassionate care to her patients. We were proud to be her consultant throughout the application process. Especially when, out of 27 applicants, just 6 dispensaries were originally granted licenses! (Only 3 more have been added since.) Zrenda’s was one of the first, making it one of the first solely women owned and operated cannabis businesses in the country. She and her business partner are both proud members of the Connecticut Pharmacists Association and the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), and Laurie was featured as an expert in the Legally Dealing Drugs Film. (You can find all of her clips from the documentary on this handy youtube playlist.)
Maureen McNamara is a real deal cannabis guru; with 20+ years of professional training experience, she is the Founder and Chief Facilitator of Cannabis Trainers™; a corporation that delivers training solutions for the Cannabis Industry. Selling cannabis involves many risks, and Maureen has been helping cannabis businesses navigate these tough waters since 2013. She has created the complete training package, to ensure that businesses in the cannabis industry operate at a level of professionalism rivaling almost any in the business world. Maureen has worked with the Colorado Department of Revenue – Liquor Enforcement Division on the Responsible Vendor Act that was passed in 2005, as well as with the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division to design the Responsible Cannabis Vendor Program in 2014. The Sell-SMaRT™ program is offered to the public every month and private classes are often held at dispensaries. She is also part of the Social Consumption Advisory Committee, helping to implement I-300 in Denver.
You can see her speak at the 2017 NCIA Cannabis Business Summit in Oakland next month, but if you can’t wait that long, check out this great talk from a few years ago at Ignite Denver: “Laugh or Get Throat Punched.” Enjoy!
Nancy Whiteman is co-founder & co-owner of Wana Brands, which produces Wana Edibles, Wana Extracts, and Wana Medicinals. She not only oversees Wana Brands sales and marketing efforts (AND finance and accounting department) she is also responsible for the strategic vision of Wana Brands, which is, in fact, quite wide reaching. Established in 2010, Wana Brands is one of the largest cannabis-infused products companies in Colorado, with products carried in over 450 dispensaries. In 2016 they expanded to include markets in Oregon and Nevada, with plans to make it to Arizona, Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts by 2018.
No stranger to the marketing biz, she is known as a force to be reckoned with in the industry, and with good reason! She has consistently been a step ahead of changing regulations in a hyper-dynamic industry, and according to the Boulder Daily Camera, “In the wild west of marijuana edibles, where dosages and potency can vary wildly among products, Wana takes extra steps to produce products that will perform as dependably as Tylenol or Excedrin.” We can think of no better way to reflect professionally on the cannabis industry than by being the best at what you do!
Dr. Rachel Knox
Dr Knox decided early on that she would not pursue a conventional career in medicine, and began planning a private practice in Functional Medicine (the practical application of root cause analysis to disease processes as it pertains to lifestyle behaviors and environment). Realizing that she would need a way to finance this goal (and also pay back student loans) she and her sister joined their parents in the practice of authorizing qualifying patients for medical cannabis use.
“After my very first day evaluating patients for medical cards, I realized that I would need to be much more than a “rec writer.” Patients were asking me questions about how cannabis worked, what strains they should be looking for, and how they should be using it in general and for specific diseases. They were relying on me to know SOMETHING, as their primary care providers and specialists were consistently failing to support them.”
As a medical professional, Dr Knox is on a mission to destigmatize cannabis use as a safe, effective, and powerful way to heal; she was invited to speak at the United Nations about the healing properties of the plant earlier this year. Though her formal training in Family and Integrative Medicine provides her with the know-how to treat acute illness and chronic disease, she is passionate about teaching her patients how to avoid and even reverse them altogether through natural means. She believes that cannabis legalization should benefit people, not bottom lines, and armed with both medical and business degrees Dr. Rachel is in a perfect position to stand up to “Big Pharma” as they begin to take note of the incredible monetary success of the cannabis industry. Her main goal seems to be educating not just the patients she serves, but to engage with fellow practitioners regarding the use of cannabis. Her style is personable and approachable, but loaded with medical science — like in this video where she breaks down Cannabis and Cancer. Dr. Rachel is a co-founder of The Canna MDs and the American Cannabinoid Clinics, and is the current Medical Chair of the Minority Cannabis Business Association.
All we can say is: thanks for paving a way into the discussion for medical science, Dr. Knox! Score one for the good guys!
Rachelle Yeung began her career in drug policy reform when she co-founded a chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at the University of Colorado Law School, and worked closely with the Amendment 64 campaign to legalize cannabis in Colorado. She was the Government Affairs Manager for Vicente Sederberg before moving to Washington, D.C. to serve as Public Policy Counsel for the ACLU of Maryland, where she recently spoke, prior to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing on SB 928 (which would regulate cannabis similarly to alcohol). She has served as a legislative analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project, and currently serves on the Policy Committee for the Minority Cannabis Business Association. Rachelle brings a racial justice, social justice, and feminist perspective to all of her work, and in her own words “strongly resents that “Social Justice Warrior” is a derogatory term.”
Rachelle is a co-host of the very popular podcast “This Week in Drugs” and hopes that this podcast will serve as a vehicle for the momentum behind ending cannabis prohibition, and in fact to ending prohibition against all drugs. (Ambitious much? We LOVE it.)
With 20 years of marketing operations and start up finance experience, Sara (sounds like Car-a) is the president and CEO of Hifi Farms, a sustainably and organically run business she founded with 3 partners in 2015 in Oregon. Since then she has helped make the business of cannabis a force for social good in her state. “It’s pretty intense, looking at something that’s such a perfect business opportunity and, at the same time, has all these social components,” she said in an interview with Oregon Business in 2016. “You can actually be a cold, hard capitalist and feel good about yourself in cannabis.” Hifi is the most progressive cannabis company in Oregon. Every one of it’s employees is an owner and engaged in the practice of regenerative farming which massively reduces impact on the environment. 60% of the team is made up of women and veterans, and close attention is paid to developing a culture of respect and individual empowerment. Her main stage speech at the 2016 Women Grow Leadership Summit was aptly titled “The Unexpected Secrets to a Successful Raise — the Feminine Art of Fundraising,” and she has been a huge proponent of women entrepreneurs long before entering the cannabis industry. She believes that diversity and equal opportunity are foundational to ethical business and she is working to bring those principles to bear through her understanding of structuring and funding startups. “Hifi Farms is the closest corporate representation of our values that I could create” she says. Sara was recently named Board Chair for the Resource Innovation Institute, and we know she’s the woman for the job.
Based in Boston, MA, Shaleen Title is the co-founder of THC Staffing Group, a women-owned, inclusion-focused recruiting firm dedicated solely to the cannabis industry. She’s served on the board of national organizations including Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the National Lawyers Guild, and she currently serves as a founding board member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association and Marijuana Majority. For her advocacy work — specifically her efforts to bring more women and people of color into drug policy reform — she has been awarded several honors, including the Hunter S. Thompson Young Attorney Award, the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Outstanding Alumnus Award twice, and the High Times Freedom Fighter Award. She spoke in front of the United Nations earlier this year about the origins of the medical marijuana movement in the HIV/AIDS community in California in the 90s and the need to honor their work. A go-to source for information on the industry, her work has been featured in countless news outlets and publications including the Boston Business Journal, NPR, Al Jazeera, Newsweek, Fox Business News, The Rachel Maddow Show, and All In With Chris Hayes. Her writing has been featured in The Huffington Post, and in a 2015 interview with Ladybud.com we loved when she said “[w]hite men have made incredible progress reforming marijuana laws. That’s not in dispute, and no one is criticizing them. But we need to take purposeful and concrete steps to make sure we are addressing the devastation that marijuana prohibition has caused for people of color.” We couldn’t agree more, and we can’t wait to see what this powerhouse comes up with in 2017.
Shawn Hauser, Esq.
A senior associate at Vicente Sederberg LLC (the first national law firm dedicated exclusively to cannabis law and policy), Shawn directed Sensible Colorado’s local government implementation team following the passage of Amendment 64, and works with local governments, in both Colorado and nationally, to develop and implement cannabis regulations to advance the industry in a dynamic and responsible manner.. Having formerly sat on the board of the National Hemp Association, she routinely advises cannabis and hemp businesses in navigating the intersection between state and federal law ( Things like managing emerging and complex cannabis laws, business licensing, regulatory compliance, general business representation, and intellectual property to name a few.) Starting with internships in cannabis law while she was studying at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, she chaired the school’s chapter of NORML before joining McAllister, Darnell, & Gottlieb PC, one of the first cannabis law firms. She was also listed as one of 5280 Magazine’s “Top Lawyers” in 2015 and ’16. An excellent speaker, Shawn was featured on the MMJ: Out of The Shadows Panel at SXSW in Austin, TX this past March, and we had the distinct pleasure of of hearing her roast her own boss — Christian Sederberg — at the Headies of State (an annual 4/20 gathering of over 275 owners of Dispensaries & MIP Companies in Colorado).
Brains, wit, and a killer sense of humor… All we can say is, whoever said women can’t have it all must never have met any women in cannabis!