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Cannabis & Women’s History Month

By Chase Nightingale

March is a time to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of women throughout history. The world of cannabis is no exception. This month, we pay tribute to the women who have made impactful strides in the cannabis industry.


Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to highlight the often-overlooked roles women have played in the development and growth of the cannabis industry. From the early cultivation of hemp to the ongoing fight for legalization, women have been integral to the history of cannabis.

The Early History of Cannabis

Cannabis, a plant with a rich history that spans thousands of years, has been deeply intertwined with human culture and society across various civilizations. Historical evidence points to its utilization in diverse ways, reflecting its importance and versatility. One of the most intriguing aspects of cannabis history is the role women have played in its cultivation and use. Early records and anthropological studies suggest that women were not merely participants but often the primary cultivators of the cannabis plant. Their expertise and knowledge in growing cannabis were vital, as they harnessed the plant’s potential for a range of purposes.

These purposes were predominantly medicinal and spiritual, highlighting the multifaceted value of cannabis in ancient societies. Women utilized the plant to alleviate various ailments, leveraging its therapeutic properties to treat pain, discomfort, and other medical conditions. Moreover, cannabis held a significant place in spiritual and ritualistic practices, where it was used to facilitate meditation, rituals, and ceremonies. This spiritual aspect of cannabis use underscores its perceived sacredness and the profound connection between the plant and the spiritual well-being of individuals and communities.

Women in the Cannabis Industry

The cannabis industry has experienced a noteworthy surge in female leadership and entrepreneurship, marking a significant shift in the landscape of corporate leadership within this rapidly evolving sector. In recent years, women have made remarkable strides in carving out leadership roles for themselves, with approximately 37% of senior positions in the cannabis industry now occupied by women. This figure stands in stark relief against the backdrop of the broader United States business environment, where women hold an average of just 21% of senior positions across all industries.

Notable Women in Cannabis History

Throughout history, the cannabis industry has been significantly shaped and influenced by the contributions of numerous women. These trailblazers have not only made strides within the industry but have also played pivotal roles in altering public perception and policy towards cannabis. Their groundbreaking work spans various facets of the cannabis world, from culinary innovations and activism to scientific research and medical advocacy.

  • Mary Jane Rathbun, affectionately known as “Brownie Mary”, is a figure synonymous with the early medicinal cannabis movement. She gained notoriety for her cannabis-infused brownies, which were not just a culinary novelty but a compassionate effort to provide relief to AIDS patients during a time of crisis. Brownie Mary’s dedication went beyond the kitchen; she was a tireless advocate for the legalization of medical cannabis. Her efforts laid the groundwork for the acceptance and legalization of medicinal cannabis, making her an iconic figure in cannabis culture.
  • Charlotte Figi, a young girl whose story touched the hearts of many, became a symbol of the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Charlotte suffered from severe epilepsy, and her condition was dramatically improved through the use of CBD (cannabidiol), a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis. Her story brought national attention to the potential of CBD as a treatment for epilepsy and other conditions, sparking a conversation about the medical applications of cannabis. Charlotte’s legacy is a testament to the power of individual stories in shaping public opinion and policy.

Pioneering Women in Modern Cannabis

The modern cannabis industry is being profoundly influenced and shaped by numerous women who bring their expertise, leadership, and passion to this rapidly evolving field. Their contributions are not only enriching the industry but are also paving the way for future generations of female entrepreneurs and leaders.

  • Emily Paxhia stands out as a pioneering figure in the investment sector of the cannabis industry. As a co-founder and Managing Partner of Poseidon Asset Management, Emily has reviewed thousands of companies within the cannabis space, working closely with numerous founders in various capacities. Her role extends beyond just investment; she actively participates in the ongoing oversight of these investments and works with her partners to create meaningful deal structures.
  • Wanda James, another formidable figure in the cannabis space, made history by becoming the first African-American woman to own a cannabis dispensary in Colorado. Her leadership extends beyond her entrepreneurial endeavors; Wanda is a staunch advocate for cannabis reform. Her efforts in both the political and entrepreneurial spheres have earned her recognition as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Cannabis by High Times magazine in 2018
  • Dr. Chanda Macias, CEO of Women Grow, is yet another influential leader making significant strides in fostering female leadership within the cannabis industry. Through her role at Women Grow, Dr. Macias is dedicated to empowering women to advance in the cannabis sector, providing them with the tools and network necessary to succeed.

Women and Cannabis Consumption

The cannabis industry is witnessing a notable shift towards gender parity, not only in leadership roles but also in consumer demographics. A 2019 survey highlighted that women constituted 38% of cannabis users, a figure that is anticipated to increase as the plant becomes more destigmatized and its legalization expands. This trend is further supported by recent findings which reveal that 1 in 3 women over the age of 21 consume cannabis. This indicates a growing acceptance and utilization of cannabis among women. 

Challenges Faced by Women in the Cannabis Industry

While women have made significant strides in the cannabis industry, they still face challenges, including gender discrimination and lack of access to capital.

“The cannabis industry presents a unique opportunity for women, but there are still systemic barriers we need to overcome.” – Dr. Chanda Macias

The Future of Women in Cannabis

The cannabis industry is on a remarkable trajectory towards growth and innovation. At the heart of this promising future lies a significant and transformative force – women. Their increasing involvement and leadership within the sector are not just noteworthy but pivotal in shaping the industry’s direction. As we delve deeper into the evolution of the cannabis market, it becomes evident that female leadership and innovation are set to play a critical role.