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Celebrating Women in the Cannabis Industry

  • by Valerie Viramontes

Table of Contents

  1. Early Cannabis Trailblazers
  2. Women-Owned Cannabis Companies
    1. Adelia Carillo - Blunt Brunch/ 
    2. Emily Paxhia - High Rise &
    3. Kristi Palmer - Kiva Confections
    4. Symone Gates - Bädé Collection
    5. Nancy White - Wana Brands
    6. Julie Chiariello- SKUNK Magazine 
    7. Taylor Blake- Emerald Cup 
  3. FAQs
  4. Conclusion

The cannabis industry is often associated with a male-dominated narrative, but just like throughout history, women have played essential roles in shaping and revolutionizing the industry's development. From advocacy and activism to entrepreneurship building brands and publishing platforms, executive roles, and scientific research, women have been making their seats at the table within the cannabis community.

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In this article, we'll discuss and celebrate the remarkable contributions of women who enrich the tapestry of the cannabis industry and explore their impact on this evolving community.


Early Cannabis Trailblazers

Despite contending with significant barriers and stigmas in society, women have been at the forefront of cannabis advocacy and reform for decades. Notable figures like activist Mary Jane Rathbun (also known as Brownie Mary) and author Alice O'Leary Randall worked to advocate for the medical benefits of cannabis and challenged the prohibitionist policies of their time.

Mary Jane Rathburn, the original Mary Jane of Cannabis
Mary Jane Ruthbun (aka Brownie Mary) with her famous cannabis brownies.


Mary Jane Rathbun became a symbol of activism and compassion in the 1980s as she baked cannabis-infused brownies for AIDS patients in her community. She and other activists in her time helped pave the way for other women to get involved and achieve success in the cannabis industry.


Women-Owned Cannabis Companies

Thanks to decades of activism and effort, the rise of cannabis legalization has created new opportunities in the industry. Now, female entrepreneurs have a path to follow in order to carve out their own niches with successful cannabis-related companies. From dispensaries to news platforms to innovative cannabis products, many women-owned businesses have flourished in the growing cannabis community. 

Women have worked tirelessly to shatter glass ceilings and in doing so, they have inspired new generations of female entrepreneurs to step into the cannabis space. 

Let's take a look at some of our notable women who have made names for themselves in the world of cannabis.


Adelia Carillo & Parisa Rad - Blunt Brunch

Adelia Carrilo & Parisa Rad from Blunt Brunch

Adelia Carillo and Parisa Rad founded and developed, Blunt Brunch over brunch. Blunt Brunch holds events all over the United States bringing professional women in Cannabis together in different networking settings in an effort to give women a safe place to develop connections, collaborations and opportunities in a global industry. These brunch events serve as a community support system, shared learning, and mutual empowerment for women to succeed in the Cannabis industry. You never know who you’re going to meet at one of their events. 


Sue Carlton - Owner of Ranchera Familia

Sue Carlton Owner of Rancher Familia

Sue Carlton, a third-generation Latina farmer, embodies resilience and determination in the cannabis industry. Starting as a trimmer and working her way up through various roles, Sue seized every opportunity to immerse herself in the green world. Her journey led her to become a Chocolatier working with Gron edibles and a consultant, leveraging her expertise in areas ranging from food safety regulations to genetic selection. Despite facing financial challenges as a self-funded entrepreneur in an industry with stigma, Sue's unwavering commitment to her passion for cannabis cultivation has driven her forward. Through her farm Ranchera Familia located in the Sierra Mountains of California, Sue is renowned for producing high-terpene, sun-grown boutique hemp flower and innovative hemp-based products like earrings, joint crowns, and necklaces. As she celebrates her sixth year in the business, Sue looks forward to further expanding her farm's offerings and pursuing new creative ventures. 


Emily Paxhia - High Rise &

Emily Paxia from

Emily Paxhia, along with her co-host Cy Scott, strives to keep her audience informed about everything that’s going on in the world of cannabis. Through the use of data and analysis technology, Emily discusses recent developments in the cannabis market weekly on her podcast, High Rise

As a seasoned advocate for cannabis legalization and education, Emily Paxhia has played a pivotal role in making cannabis news and knowledge accessible to the general public. Through her work, she's empowering individuals, advocates, entrepreneurs, and businesses to apply what they learn so that they can better thrive in a rapidly evolving market.


Marvina Thomas - Owner of Fourtwenty Collections

Marvina Thomas Owner of Fourtwenty Collective

Marvina Thomas, founder of Fourtwenty Collections, is a pioneering entrepreneur in the cannabis industry, based in Arizona. Her company specializes in CBD skincare and THC- and CBD-infused edibles. Thomas recently made history by acquiring a vertically integrated medical marijuana dispensary license in Safford, Arizona, becoming the state's first woman of color dispensary owner and operator. With this acquisition and her existing license in Las Cruces, New Mexico, she has become one of the first women of color to become a multi-state operator (MSO) as well. 

As a former registered nurse, she entering the cannabis industry in 2016 with just one product sku, a CBD-infused soap, Thomas has since expanded her empire to include a full line of THC- and CBD-infused products. Despite the challenges, she has remained self-funded, emphasizing the importance of following her dreams without being beholden to investors.


Kristi Palmer - Kiva Confections

Kristi Palmer Co-Owner of Kiva Confections

Kristi Palmer co-founded Kiva Confections with her partner, Scott Palmer. Since the company's humble beginnings in 2010, Kiva Confections has become one of the leading brands of cannabis edibles in the country. Kristi is dedicated to the art of crafting premium edible products and setting high-quality standards for the rest of the industry.

To create a superior product, Kristi and her team use locally-grown cannabis material as well as natural ingredients to ensure that each confection they create is delicious, safe, and effective. In addition, Kiva Confections cares about the environment and has adopted sustainable business practices, such as implementing eco-friendly packaging. 

The company is also committed to advocating for responsible cannabis consumption and supporting the cannabis community through educational outreach and event sponsorship.


Dr.Chanda Macias - Woman Grow & National Holistic

Dr.Chanda Macias CEO of Woman Grow & Owner of National Holistics

Meet Dr. Chanda Macias, an esteemed figure in the world of cannabis and holistic healthcare. With an impressive array of titles and accomplishments, Dr. Macias stands as a beacon of leadership and innovation.

As the Chairwoman of the Board of Managers and CEO of Women Grow, Dr. Macias embodies a commitment to empowering women in the cannabis industry. Beyond her role at Women Grow, she is also the CEO and proprietor of National Holistic™, a renowned cannabis and hemp healthcare enterprise. At National Holistic™ Healing Center in Washington DC, Dr. Macias has established a reputation for excellence, providing top-tier medical marijuana products and services.

Dr. Macias's influence extends beyond the nation's capital. Through Ilera Holistic Healthcare, she has forged partnerships that have led to the establishment of cultivation and processing facilities, including a groundbreaking collaboration with Southern University in Louisiana. This initiative underscores Dr. Macias's dedication to expanding access to holistic healthcare options across the country.


Nancy White - Wana Brands

Nancy Whiteman Owner of Wana Brands

Nancy White didn’t start in the cannabis industry. Rather, she got her MBA and had over a decade of experience in marketing and consulting before cannabis went from a hobby to her career. As she explored the newly legal cannabis industry in Colorado, she began making and selling edibles of all kinds to see what would stick with customers.

After a few years of practice, they moved on from the rustic baked goods common in the early 2010s and began making vegan-friendly infused gummies. While infused gummies may be the default for some of us now, we owe a lot of the innovation in that space to Nancy White’s experimentation. Today, she has arranged a deal to sell Wana Brands to Canopy but remains active in the business.


Julie Chiariello- SKUNK Magazine

Julie Chiariello Owner and Editor in Cheif of SKUNK Magazine

Julie Chiariello is both a medical cannabis user and a long-time advocate of herbal medicine, with 26 years of experience in business. Throughout her time as a professional in the field, she has developed a specialty in promoting sustainability through marketing eco-friendly products, empowering consumers, and engaging in philanthropic efforts. 

Julie has experience leading companies in the health and wellness industries as well as the cannabis industry. She is currently both the Owner and Editor-in-chief of SKUNK Magazine, a position she’s thrived in for more than a decade. Through her work, she has aimed to support small businesses in the industry and assist the communities most affected by cannabis prohibition.


Taylor Blake- Emerald Cup 

Taylor Blake from The Emerald Cup

Like many Americans, Taylor Blake’s first experience using cannabis was smoking it with friends as a teenager. It wasn’t until she was about 20 that she grew a broader appreciation of the plant by learning from her father, the legendary visionary Tim Blake. Her interest in becoming part of the cannabis industry expanded from there, and she continues to be optimistic about legalization efforts and promoting women in cannabis.

Now, Taylor Blake has been in the cannabis industry for over 15 years, starting to assist with the Emerald Cup in 2008 and eventually taking the role of Associate Producer. Since her father, Tim Blake, founded the Emerald Cup competition, helping to assemble and grow it each year was a natural next step for her career after getting a Bachelors degree in Psychology. Together, this father-daughter duo has continued to expand the competition to include more cannabis entrepreneurs.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Has the role of women in the cannabis industry evolved over time?

A: Yes. Throughout history, women have played significant roles in cannabis advocacy and activism. With the legalization and commercialization of cannabis products in some states, more women are entering the industry in leadership positions and starting their own cannabis businesses.

Q: Are there any challenges specifically faced by women in the cannabis industry?

A: Yes, challenges such as gender bias, stigma, and regulatory hurdles can disproportionately affect women in the cannabis industry. In addition, perceptions about balancing family responsibilities with career demands can create difficulties for some business professionals.

Q: Are there any organizations supporting women in the cannabis industry?

A: Yes. There are several organizations dedicated to supporting women in the cannabis industry, such as Women Grow, Women Employed in Cannabis (WEiC), and the National Cannabis Industry Association.

Q: Are there opportunities for women looking to enter the cannabis industry?

A: Yes. There are various opportunities for women in the cannabis industry, including leadership roles, entrepreneurship, advocacy, and research. As the industry continues to grow and evolve, so too will the demand for diverse talent.

Q: Can women overcome barriers to success in the cannabis industry?

A: Yes. Mentorship, networking, and seeking resources and support from women's organizations can help women overcome barriers in the cannabis industry. Additionally, advocating for gender diversity and inclusion within the industry can drive positive change.



Women have played a fundamental role in getting the cannabis industry to where it is today, thanks to their creativity, resilience, and willingness to persevere in the face of adversity. From grassroots activism to corporate leadership, women have made undeniable contributions to every facet of the cannabis landscape. As the industry continues to grow and evolve, it is essential to recognize and celebrate the role of women in shaping its past, present, and future. By honoring their legacy and amplifying their voices, we can foster a more inclusive and equitable cannabis industry for generations to come.

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