Powerful Women in the Cannabis Industry

Mar 03, 2021

It’s Women’s History Month, and what better way to celebrate it than to learn about the women who are considered trailblazers in the cannabis industry?

Fierce, headstrong, compassionate, and motivated. That’s how women are when advocating for something they believe in, especially in the world of cannabis reform. Women gave significant contributions to the lengthy fight for cannabis legalization and education, and they deserve to be celebrated and credited. 

Let’s look at the influential women who took a stand in spreading positive awareness of cannabis and how their efforts helped shape the booming cannabis industry.

The Past: Historical Women in the Cannabis Industry

Over the past decades, we all know how women have worked hard to secure their place in different trades, and the cannabis industry is no different. Gender inequality has always been an issue, but that did not faze these women on speaking their minds when it comes to gaining positive changes in the cannabis industry.

These women took massive risks and sacrificed their livelihoods to bring awareness for the positive effects and use of cannabis during a time when it was frowned upon. 

Ready to meet these resilient and powerful women?

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

Legendary jazz and blues singer, Billie Holiday, is not only known for her effervescent voice and calming songs. She is also known to be an outspoken advocate for cannabis legalization. In the 1940’s she openly used and talked about its positive effects, an act that was considered dangerous, and even deadly, for women of colour to do. 

In fact, Billie Holiday was so influential that the feds saw her as a threat because of her cannabis use. The legislation of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act acted as the start of the federal cannabis prohibition, and it gave feds the power to specifically target and harass African-American jazz musicians because of the cannabis references in their songs. These artists included Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, among others. 

Like a fierce woman of the blues, Billie Holiday wasn’t fazed at all. She continued to sing and talk about cannabis in a positive manner and even sang songs she was “prevented” from singing even with the police present at her shows. Talk about power and courage!

Mary Jane Rathbun

Mary Jane Rathbun, or referred to as her infamous nickname “Brownie Mary” by cannabis enthusiasts, was an American medical cannabis rights advocate with a decorated input in pushing for its legalization. In the 1980s, Brownie Mary was a volunteer at a hospital in San Francisco and was known to bake and distribute cannabis brownies to AIDS patients during the time when it was deemed illegal. She was definitely the “fun nurse” at the AIDS patients ward. 

Brownie Mary actively lobbied for the legalization of medical marijuana and did everything in her power to help pass the San Francisco Proposition P in 1991, and California Proposition 215 in 1996. However, her efforts had some undesirable effects as she was arrested on three occasions in 1990. On a positive note, her arrests gained local, national, and international media attention that shed light on the medical marijuana movement. 

Eventually, San Francisco officials gave her permission to legally distribute her spiked brownies to AIDS patients and even motivated researchers to study the positive effects of cannabinoids in HIV-infected adults (try her famous spiked brownie recipe, here).

Perhaps one of her most prominent achievements in the cannabis industry was her contribution to the establishment of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club. It was the first medical cannabis dispensary in the United States and paved the way for a ubiquitous positive awareness of cannabis’ medicinal properties. 

In short, Brownie Mary is the reason why Americans can purchase medical marijuana and the reason why patients positively react to its beneficial effects. You go, Brownie Mary!

 A woman with the word “power” written across her chest

The Present: Women Dictating the Future of the Cannabis Industry

With legalizations being passed nationwide these days, the number of women taking great leaps in the cannabis industry grows as the days go by. They’re savvy, forward-thinking, brave, and won’t take “no” for an answer, especially when it comes to spreading positivity in the cannabis industry. 

Years from now, these women will be considered pioneers of a groundbreaking movement that has been celebrated for decades. Let’s look at these women of power:

Mimi Lam

Mimi Lam is the CEO and co-founder of the cannabis retail brand, Superette, and is the winner of Lift & Co’s 2019 Womxn in Weed-Trailblazer award. Talk about being a bona fide “trail-blazer!

Lam was an investment banker before taking the plunge into the cannabis industry later becoming the director at Tokyo Smoke. Needless to say, Mimi Lam knows where to put her money on. In the future, Lam wishes to broaden her grasp in the Canadian cannabis industry as she plans to open more Superette locations across the country.

Wanda James

Wanda James is the first African American woman to own a cannabis dispensary in Colorado. Called Simply Pure, her company culture inspires positive dialogues within women in the cannabis industry and inspires them to be more open in exploring cannabis effects and use it to their overall wellbeing.

James is also known for her political and entrepreneurial accomplishments on cannabis reform, which led to her being regarded as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Cannabis by High Times Magazine in 2018, and one of the 50 Most Important Women in the Cannabis Industry by Cannabis Business Executive in 2016 (CBE). 

James is outspoken and actively expresses her thoughts online about social inequality and the economic struggles of women trying to make it in the cannabis industry. We can all agree that if she ever becomes interested in a political career, cannabis reform will be her top priority.

Rosie Mattio

Women leading the cannabis industry are not all about cultivating and setting up dispensaries, and Rosie Mattio can prove that. Mattio is the founder of MATTIO Communications, a New York-based PR firm specializing in meeting the marketing needs of emerging cannabis brands. 

With her “highly specialized” niche, Mattio quickly became one of the most influential public relations specialists in the cannabis industry. To prove her efficiency, her company has been ranked the #1 cannabis PR firm by Greenmarket Report. To date, she has 32 marquee cannabis clients all over North America. In 2019, Forbes Magazine named her as one of the 15 Powerful and Innovative Women In Cannabis Right Now. If she can turn small cannabis businesses into global, sustainable brands with her marketing and PR expertise, then she definitely deserves the mention.

Melinda Rombouts

“The Future of Cannabis is Female.” 

That’s the tagline of Melinda Rombouts’s company, Eve & Co, a leading female-focused brand in the Canadian cannabis industry. Aside from the company’s female-oriented market outreach, she provides educational information and online support for cannabis consumption among women. 

Having extensive experience in the agriculture business, Rombouts tried her luck in cannabis cultivation, and succeeded with flying colours. She made history as the first woman founder to receive a cultivation license for cannabis under the Cannabis Act. She definitely aimed high and succeeded. 

In 2019, Rombouts received the prestigious Ones To Watch Award, an arm of the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards for demonstrating her leadership traits and combining them with her passion to extend positive cannabis culture, not only in Canada, but throughout the rest of the world.

Inspired by These Women Leading the Cannabis Industry?

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