6 Inspiring Women Leaders in Cannabis

[Canniseur: While there are definitely women working in the cannabis market, more are needed. Cannabis is the first ‘new’ industry where women can make their mark. While there is plenty of sex discrimination (plus race and sexual orientation), women have a better opportunity to lead the way where gender is secondary to getting the job done. Let’s make sure salaries are commiserate with skill and not gender, as well.]

Women are firmly established in many cannabis industry leadership positions. Cannabis conferences like Women Grow and The National Women of Cannabis Conference highlight the number of female entrepreneurs in the industry.

Women also make up a large chunk of cannabis users. In a 2017 report from The Cannabis Consumer Coalition of 537 consumers across both legal and prohibition states, women made up a majority of the respondents. With such a large share of cannabis consumption attributed to women, it’s no surprise that women are taking the industry by the horns.

The cannabis industry is fertile ground for female leadership. Anja Charbonneau, editor of the weed magazine Broccoli, puts it this way: “because cannabis is so new as a legal industry, it feels like there’s this opportunity to make women’s voices heard while it’s being built – and that’s pretty much never, ever happened with any other industry.”

This post highlights a few of the women who have dedicated themselves to the production, marketing, and advocacy of cannabis.


Jessica Billingsley

CEO of Akerna

Co-Founder of MJ Freeway

Billingsley was an early investor in Colorado’s cannabis industry. She recognized a gap when she could not find software suitable for medical marijuana tracking. She co-founded seed-to-sale cannabis software tracking company MJ Freeway in 2010.

Surviving a hack on their database in 2017, MJ Freeway recently merged with MTech Acquisition to form Akerna. This made them the first cannabis-compliance technology company to trade on NASDAQ.

Billingsley is highly engaged in the cannabis community, and also advocates for women in tech with her One Woman Challenge initiative: “I urge us to focus our energy equally on keeping women in tech careers and inspiring girls to enter tech. Gender parity in the tech industry is about more than workforce diversity. All of us must shape the virtual worlds in which we operate so these worlds are truly expansive, innovative, and disruptive versus hardcoding more of the same.”


Jessica Peters

Jessica Peters Moxie Meds

Founder of Moxie Meds

Peters struggled for years with her period. She was hospitalized in her early twenties more than once for severe cramping and vomiting. The drugs prescribed for her eventual endometriosis diagnosis had so many side effects that she could not tolerate them.

Her exposure to CBD treatments was a revelation. She founded Moxie Meds to create medical cannabis medicine by women, for women. Her CBD and THC tinctures provide relief from cramps and pain, anxiety, stress, and help balance hormonal cycles.


Priscilla Vilchis

Priscilla Vilchis Premium

CEO and CMO of Premium Produce

Nicknamed “Queen of the Desert,” Vilchis was the youngest and first minority female CEO to receive a Nevada cannabis license. Since 2013, her company Premium Produce has cultivated and produced both medical and recreational marijuana.

She got her start through managing physicians in Southern California and became interested in cannabis due to its potential to reduce the burden on Americans’ health bills. She is a strong advocate for cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain.


Shanita Penny

Shanita Penny Budding Solutions

Founder of Budding Solutions

Penny is a world-renowned management consultant who took a leap of faith to found her cannabis business consultancy, Budding Solutions, in 2015. They offer project management, license application help, cultivation operation assessments, product and branding and more.

Penny is a cannabis advocate who lobbies for policies on Capitol Hill to normalize cannabis. She coaches her clients to create compliant, successful businesses that positively impact communities across the US. She is also the president of The Minority Cannabis Business Association.


Alison Gordon and Jeanette VanderMarel

Alison Gordon Jeanette VanderMarel 48North

Joint CEOs of 48North

In late 2018, Ontario cannabis producer 48North run by Gordon acquired VanderMarel’s Good & Green. 48North is now the first cannabis company in Canada helmed by two women. The marketing focus for their products focuses on the female health and wellness market.

Alison Gordon is a veteran in Canadian cannabis with a focus on marketing. She was named one of Canada’s Top 10 Marketers by Marketing Magazine. She also sits on the board of directors of the Cannabis Canada Council.

VanderMarel was a registered nurse who recognized the benefits of cannabis as an alternative medicinal treatment. Before launching Good & Green, she was one of the first licensed producers of medical cannabis.

For Women and Weed, There Are Budding Opportunities

These are only a handful of the many women making headlines in cannabis news. Through their ingenuity and passion, more and more women are becoming inspired to start their own marijuana startups.

Are there any notable women in cannabis we missed that deserve a shout out? Let us know in the comments.

Photo Credit: The National Women of Cannabis Conference

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