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2021Alyna Paparazzi

5 Women Making History in Cannabis

Photo Credit: South End Charlotte

Women and cannabis are threads weaved into all parts of history. Women entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry are making huge strides and making a lot of noise. The blend in diversity and experience we are seeing is truly something to behold. 

As part of Women’s History Month, it’s more important than ever to recognize some of the leading woman/womxn entrepreneurs in cannabis business and research. These women/womxn are trailblazing opportunities for each and every woman/womxn who’s ever hoped to see themselves as an integral part of the creation of the cannabis industry. 

Their love for the plant and personal experiences are what support everyone in their journeys to make history as a woman in cannabis.

5 Women in Cannabis Making History

1.Olivia Alexander– Olivia worked at her first dispensary back in 2008 at 18 and her career only flourished from there. Her entrepreneurship journey began with manufacturing vape pens through her first company, Crystal Cult. She eventually moved into the marketing sector and established the Third Eye Agency to provide creative direction and digital strategy for other cannabis businesses. 

Olivia is considered one of the largest digital influencers in cannabis. She currently has over 2.5 million followers and averages 100 million impressions monthly! Dope Magazine even named her “2017 Social Media Influencer of the Year” and Elle Magazine referred to her as “The Mariah Carey of Weed.” Her current business, Kush Queen, grew into a multi-million dollar corporation within the first three years. The luxury cannabis brand specializes in health and wellness and sells a range of THC and CBD-infused bath bombs, skincare, edibles, and other beauty products.

2.Mara Gordon– Like with so many of us, Mara’s interest in medicinal cannabis was driven by her own personal experience. She suffered severe, chronic pain after a botched back surgery in 1996. Naturally, doctors prescribed several different pharmaceutical drugs, but these only left her depressed, overweight, unable to work, and never solved her issues with chronic pain. 

Once she discovered the overwhelming benefits of consuming medicinal cannabis, Mara began devoting her life to validating the plant’s medicinal status. Her background in process engineering helped her create data-driven, plant-based medicine. After co-founding Aunt Zelda’s in 2011, Mara made her most popular therapeutic oils blends commercially available for patients through her highly respected brand. 

Her desire to engage more members of the medical community in cannabis-based medicine led her to launch a telemedicine platform and clinical service called Calla Spring Wellness. The platform is utilized by physicians and nurses to guide them on how to include medicinal cannabis into their standard treatment plans.

Mara also wanted to continue doing formal clinical research on cannabis. However, this was unattainable in America due to marijuana being classified as a Schedule I drug. Well, Mara said to the heck with that and later co-founded Zelda’s Therapeutics in Australia. The company consists of the world’s leading researchers and clinicians who actively study and use cannabis to treat various ailments

Along with being a top-grade cannabis researcher, Mara has appeared on stage in front of national and international audiences to speak on medicinal cannabis. She hosted a TED Talk entitled, Cannabis: Separating the Science from the Hype and has appeared in multiple documentaries, including The Medicine in Marijuana, Mary Janes: Women of Weed, and Weed the People.

3.Wanda James- You can’t appreciate the cannabis industry without recognizing one of the OG cannabis business leaders, Wanda James. She and her husband, Scott Durrah, a Master Cannabis Chef, were the first black entrepreneurs legally licensed in America to own and operate a dispensary, cultivation facility, and edible company. Along with her role as CEO of Simply Pure, Wanda is also the President of Colorado’s Cannabis Global Initiative. 

When Wanda’s brother was arrested and sentenced to a 10-year prison sentence for possession, she decided to get involved with the cannabis industry. The self-made cannabis entrepreneur attributes her military background as a former Navy Lieutenant and personal politics for helping her power through and overcome the negatives. 

Her discipline and resilience have cemented her work in the cannabis industry. Her face has graced the covers of some of the most prominent cannabis magazines like Sensi Magazine, Cannabis & Tech Today, and Vanguard Media. Westword Magazine honored her in 2010 by naming her the Marijuana Advocate of the Year. 

In 2008, High Times Magazine listed Wanda as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Cannabis. The Cannabis Business Executive also included her among the 50 Most Important Women in the Cannabis Industry in 2016. Wanda has been featured in numerous shows, including The BBC, CNBC’s Marijuana USA, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and plenty more. 

4.Dr. Chanda Macias– Dr. Macias is a cannabis pioneer and world-renowned biomedical researcher with a Ph.D. in Cellular Biology and MBA in Supply Chain Management. Her various roles in the industry include serving on the Board of Directors for the Minority Cannabis Business Association and being the Treasurer and Secretary of DC Medical Cannabis Trade Association. 

Dr. Macias is a huge voice for aspiring female entrepreneurs and researchers looking to get involved in the cannabis industry. As the CEO and Chairwoman of Women’s Grow, she’s dedicated to educating, inspiring, and empowering the next generation of women leaders in the cannabis and hemp industry. 

Dr. Macias’s track record within the cannabis industry speaks for itself. She was the first black female entrepreneur to own a multistate cannabis company and founded the National Holistic Healing Center in 2015, Washington D.C.’s leading medical cannabis dispensary. Dr. Macias is also the CEO of Ilera Holistic Healthcare

Ilera Holistic is the medical marijuana cultivator and processor for the State of Louisiana. The company works in partnership with Southern University to deliver affordable medical marijuana healthcare options for patients. In February 2020, Southern also became the first historically black college to launch its own CBD line, ALAFIA, which means “Inner Peace” in a Nigerian language called Yoruba.

5.Cynthia Salarizadeh– Cynthia has forged a significant path in her career through her dedication and hard work to reverse the negative stigma around cannabis. The first business she founded, Salar Media Group, was one of the leading PR firms focusing on cannabis and hemp. She later allowed KCSA Communications, one of the largest firms off of 5th Ave. in New York, to acquire her company. 

After moving on from larger PR firms, Cynthia became solely focused on completely running her own businesses. How well did this work out? Well, besides founding one of the leading cannabis newswires and entrepreneur tech hubs, AxisWire, she also co-founded Green Market Media. Their cannabis finance news publication, Green Market Report, is the most recognized financial reporter for the cannabis industry.

Cynthia’s entrepreneurial drive doesn’t stop there. She is a contributing writer for Entrepreneur Media on leading women and the business of cannabis and sits on an advisory board for MoonCloth Designs, which is a hemp and sustainable hospitality company. 

But media and tech aren’t the only cannabis ventures she enjoys. Cynthia also founded and is President of a luxury cannabis wine brand called House of Saka. It is the world’s first, alcoholic-free rosé infused with cannabis to come out of Napa Valley. 

The Glass Ceiling Cannot Hold Back These Women in Cannabis

There’s no telling how endless the possibilities are for women in cannabis. While research still shows a severe lack of females in top leadership roles for marijuana businesses, we are slowly closing the gap every day. These women have been leading the charge for female entrepreneurs and are far from finished. They are living proof that women play a vital role in shaping the marijuana industry for medical and adult-use. 

“I’m Alyna, a writer from Florida and strong advocate for the mental health community. Through my writing and advocacy, I hope to add an educating voice that helps the with mood disorders learn to navigate life in a calm and self-fulfilling way. I consume Cannabis as a means to understand and connect with the world.

Written By: Alyna Paparazzi 

Edited by: Veronica Castillo

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