As Women History’s Month comes to an end, we reflect on all of the influential women in the cannabis industry, and the overall impact women have had on the plant throughout history.
From utilizing cannabis for medical benefit to working within the industry to develop and innovate, women have left their mark on every inch of the cannabis community.
The History of Cannabis Use Among Women
While cannabis may offer benefits to many people, women have utilized the plant in different ways for several centuries. For instance, cannabis was used to treat uterus-related illnesses and pains throughout the 19th century, most notably by Queen Victoria for menstrual cramps.
Unlike the stigma that plagued cannabis for much of the 20th century, people during the 19th century and earlier looked at the plant with much kinder eyes, turning to it as a solution for illnesses and ailments. Historically, women have often been the caretakers of their families, and therefore the ones most likely to experiment with cannabis and its healing benefits over time.
Although society has largely looked down on cannabis use for the past century, many women have unflinchingly rallied around the plant, reaping its benefits and using it to protect those they love.
For female health in general, today women turn to cannabis to help with anxiety, insomnia, premenstrual and menstrual symptoms, menopause, and childbirth, although the use of cannabis during pregnancy remains a controversial topic.
Other than Queen Victoria, many women throughout time have utilized the plant for their bodies, like the eleventh century European women who used cannabis ointment to soothe premenstrual swollen breasts, the Aztec and Mayan women who immersed themselves in baths of medicinal herbs, or the ancient Hispanic communities in New Mexico who swear by their “green alcohol.”
“It’s a remedy of the elder women for topical use. Cannabis leaves in alcohol – most commonly rubbing alcohol. They’ve been using it for generations but don’t really talk about it,” said Heather Manus, RN, who specializes in all aspects of cannabis care.
Because of the stigma that remains around cannabis, there are a lot of instances of people using the plant and not really talking about it, which is damaging. This silence helps uphold the stigma, and it prevents people from learning about the benefits cannabis can bring to their daily lives.
The women listed below are just a few of the females today carrying on the tradition of women in cannabis, and they’re doing so with boldness, courage, and intent.
10 Inspiring Women in Cannabis Today
Who are the most inspiring women in cannabis today?
From innovation and cultivation to health and wellness and everything in between, women are putting forth their respective skills to help shape the emerging cannabis industry.
And their work is making an impact.
Here are just some of today’s most influential women within the cannabis community. This list is by no means exhaustive. Who would you add to the list?
Heather Manus, RN
As mentioned earlier, Heather Manus, RN specializes in all aspects of cannabis care, including natural healing modalities and herbal remedies she obtained from her experiences with Hispanic and Native American healers in New Mexico.
Manus is the CEO and founder of Cannabis Nurses Network, a professional nursing and professional development organization for nurses that helps to educate on the science behind cannabis and how the plant can be incorporated into medicinal practices.
Texas-born Khadijah Adams is one of the most prominent names in cannabis today. In 2014, when Colorado legalized adult-use cannabis, Adams packed up her bags and moved to the Centennial State to throw her hat into the ring.
By the end of the year, Adams and a business partner had formed the Marijuana Investment & Private Retreat Holdings, LLC, a cannabis consulting and investor relations company dedicated to supporting minority-owned businesses.
Adams also founded Girl Get That Money, an organization whose mission is to empower women in business.
Process engineer Mara Gordon is recognized for her cannabis advocacy and research, using her expertise to create dosing regimens for medical cannabis patients around the world. Gordon co-founded Aunt Zelda’s, a collective that brings bespoke cannabis formulations directly to patients.
Gordon continues to be outspoken in her advocacy, having given many international presentations and TEDx Talks about the plant. Gordon has also been featured in films like The Medicine in Marijuana and Mary Janes: Women of Weed.
Wiseman aims to uplift Black entrepreneurs within the industry and spread the word about the plant’s benefits.
As the first African-American woman to own a cannabis dispensary in the United States, Navy Veteran Wanda James has definitely made a name for herself in the industry. James is the founder and CEO of Simply Pure, based in Colorado. She is also president of the Cannabis Global Initiative, which provides communications and marketing services to industry players.
James continues to champion for Black-owned and other minority-owned cannabis businesses, and social equity within the industry as a whole. She was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Cannabis by High Times in 2018, and one of the 50 Most Important Women in the Cannabis Industry by Cannabis Business Executive in 2016.
Mary Pryor first began using cannabis after she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that can lead to severe pain, weight loss, and malnutrition. After some friends began recommending cannabis to her, Pryor started her own research, traveling to Colorado and experimenting with different strains.
Since using cannabis, Pryor has made a full recovery and lives a healthy, active life. In the aftermath of her revelation, she moved to California to co-found Cannaclusive, which focuses on inclusion in the cannabis industry. The agency’s mission is to normalize images of Black people consuming cannabis.
After finding her footing in Los Angeles medical cannabis dispensaries in 2012, Maha Haq continued to develop and innovate cannabis businesses in several states and countries, making her way to her current position as Director of Education at NORML.
Haq is a UCLA alum, and founded the university’s first Cannabis Club during her time there. Since then, the club has expanded to ten other universities across the country. Her goal has always been education, and erasing the stigma surrounding the plant.
An activist since 1991, Ellen Komp has gained recognition for her cannabis advocacy in and around Los Angeles. Throughout her career, Komp has had a large amount of influence on the cannabis community.
From petitioning for legalization in early California days to planning conferences and forums on drug war issues, Komp has seen the industry from all sides. In addition to these contributions, Komp also authored Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory under the pen name Nola Evangelista. The book isbased on a decade of research into female cannabis use throughout history.
In today’s legal market, Quim is one of the most innovative brands in cannabis. Co-founded by Cyo Nystrom and Rachel Washtien, Quim’s mission is to deepen the connection you have with your own body and empower you to “care for it in a way that makes sense for you.”
The women in Nystrom’s family are very susceptible to UTIs and yeast infections, which is what led her to look into the plant as a source of healing.
Quim is geared towards anyone with a vagina--or humans without vaginas who like vaginas. Whether you or a loved one suffer from endometriosis, severe PMS, or just regular menstrual aches, pain, and discomfort, Quim has a product to offer you some relief.
Women in cannabis continue to get creative with their approach, and EstroHaze is a testament to that. Co-founded by Sirita Wright, an award-winning cannabis advocate, this media company offers women of color a safe space to learn about all of the career and lifestyle opportunities within the cannabis industry.
The sparks for shaping the EstroHaze vision? Wright saw a lack of inclusion of Black women and other minority women, which will only continue to hinder the industry as a whole if it isn’t rectified.
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