Friday, March 1, 2024

Women's Herstory Month: Equity and Inclusion

This year, both Women's History Month and International Women's Day (March 8) have chosen equity, diversity and inclusion as their themes. It's a good time to look at equity in the cannabis industry, and honor those women who are a part of it. 

Kim Cargile of A Therapeutic Alternative in Sacramento, who is a leader in empowering women to run cannabis businesses, recently posted a list on Facebook of, "Women who have gone to great lengths to push this industry forward, who have sacrificed everything while working on the front lines of the War on Cannabis. Women that are often overlooked by the corporate takeover of our industry and we should all know there names and if we know them, thank them."

PHOTO: Larry Utley
Inviting others to add names to the list, Cargile included on her list Elvy Musikka, a Columbian-American who was the first woman in the federal IND medical marijuana program, which sends monthly tins of 300 joints to participants. Musikka stumped for our rights (in both English and Spanish) for over a decade with the Cannabis Action Network, which toured the country raising awareness. 

Another inclusion is Yamileth Bolanos, who hails from Costa Rica and founded the Los Angeles cannabis dispensary Pure Life Alternative Wellness Center. Bolanos was instrumental in the passage of California's law protecting organ transplant patients from discrimination over their use of medical marijuana. 

Also in LA is the groundbreaking cannabis dispensary (soon to be a speakeasy?) Josephine & Billies, run by Whitney Beatty and Ebony Anderson, and named for Tokin' Women Josephine Baker and Billie Holiday

In Northern California, Amber Senter, CEO of MAKR House, a distribution and infused cannabis products company, is also co-founder, Chair of the Board, and Executive Director of Supernova Women, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 2015 by Black and Brown women that works to empower Black and Brown people to become self-sufficient shareholders in the cannabis and natural plant medicine space through education, advocacy, and network building. 

Among other Californians from the equity space is Sue Taylor, who—at the age of 76—just celebrated the four-year anniversary of her senior-focused business The Farmacy in Berkeley. "Mama Sue" also makes her own line of cannabis products.

San Franciscan Nina Parks has a unique background in the development and facilitation of youth diversion programs and cultural events as an artist and educator in SF, and has been front and center for many of the conversations around cannabis equity programs in California.

Linda Jackson, a nurse who worked with cannabis physician Tom O'Connell, is another mover and shaker in the cannabis space, as is Keiko Beati, who is active with Orange County NORML and works with Coral Cove Wellness in Jamaica.  

Two female powerhouses from the Native American community are Gem Montes of Inland Empire NORML and Leslie Eller of Central Valley California NORML

Another pioneer is Madeline Martinez of Oregon NORML, who began her activism collecting signatures for Oregon Ballot Measure 67 (1998), which legalized medical marijuana in the state. In 2009, she established the World Famous Cannabis Café, which operated in Portland until March 2016.

PHOTO: The Weed Lady
I recently met Evelyn LaChapelle, who served an 87-month sentence for cannabis charges, and has now established The Weed Lady, a "curated and collaborative product line and lifestyle platform that celebrates and reflects her community." 

Writing in on Cargile's post were Tiffany Bowden, founder of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, and the first traveling Black education company, Comfy Tree. "You may not know that history, however because of said corporate takeovers and historical remixing," she wrote. 

Responding to Bowden's post was Larisa Bolivar of the Colorado Compassion Club. "Sensi Magazine honored me as a pioneer but most of us pre 2009 got overtaken by the people who pushed tax and regulate. They kicked all the caregivers and collectives out and erased us from history," Bolivar wrote. She is part of the Women's Cannabis Chamber of Commerce. 

Wanda James of Denver's Simply Pure is a nationally prominent African-American cannabis businesswoman. Vic Styles of Black Girls Smoke has also made a national splash. Musician and force of nature Erykah Badu has a cannabis product line; her voice has been compared to Holiday's. Whoopi Goldberg has also promoted the plant.  

I am certain I have not included nearly all of the women from the equity cannabis space here! Readers can post additions in comments. Spurred by Cargile's post, CelebStoner has been updating its 2020 list of Women in Cannabis, which is now approaching 2000 listees. 

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