As with 2016’s list of powerful ladies, in honor of Women’s History Month, we wanted to take a look at some of the most influential and inspiring women who are leading the cannabis industry into the future. From lawmakers to lawyers to entrepreneurs, every woman here has made an impact and helped pave the way for a brighter future of cannabis.
Diane Goldstein spent 21 years working as the first female lieutenant for the Redondo Beach Police Department in Southern California. She spent much of her career focused on hostage negotiations, but made numerous drug arrests that helped shape her perspective on the war on drugs. Ms. Goldstein also felt the personal impact of the drug war after a family member was arrested. This irrevocably altered her views and led her to oppose the prohibition of drugs, particularly cannabis. Ms. Goldstein is now an Executive Board Member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and regularly speaks and writes about the benefits of legalizing and regulating cannabis.
As the founder and CEO of the influential cannabis group Women Grow, Jazmin Hupp has created a community by women, for women, to empower women in the cannabis space. She is passionate about women’s equality; before starting Women Grow, she served as Director of Digital Media for Women 2.0, to help women start their own high-growth ventures. Women Grow now has events and local branches in more than 30 cities across the country, as well as a national leadership summit.
Renee Gagnon was not only the first woman CEO to take a cannabis company public, she is also the first and only transgender CEO of a cannabis company. Ms. Gagnon founded the company Thunderbird Biomedical, Inc. in 2013 before receiving a license under the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations from Health Canada in February 2014. It was while in charge of her burgeoning cannabis company that she began her transition. Thunderbird was bought out in May 2015, after which she joined forces with another female cannabis entrepreneur, Gill Polard, to co-found a cannabis supply chain solution, International Cannabis Centres, Inc.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown has gone above and beyond as a champion for cannabis. She has been supportive of the state’s medical and adult-use cannabis infrastructure, including signing legislation to help the programs run more smoothly. She allowed the sales of edibles and concentrates to take place earlier than anticipated, made it easier for medical producers to enter the retail cannabis market, and allowed banks and credit unions to work with cannabis companies without facing criminal liability. Not only that, but since the Trump administration took office, she has taken steps to protect the legal industry that has been so painstakingly crafted in her state.
Julie Netherland has spent the last five years working hard for the New York office of the Drug Policy Alliance. During that time, she has managed to help pass New York’s medical marijuana law, and has also influenced harm reduction policies. She is the current Director of the Office of Academic Engagement and has written about every facet of the war on drugs, from the horrors that face families in border towns fraught with violence to the parents who lose custody of their children while trying to alleviate their pain with medical cannabis.
Hilary Bricken has been an attorney at Harris Bricken, PLLC since 2010, but started her journey as a cannabis advocate for legalization on the Seattle scene. She created and chairs the firm’s Canna Law Group, as well as editing the Canna Law Blog. A fearless advocate and attorney, she has earned a reputation as the leading authority on cannabis legal issues at a national level, having been named “Deal Maker of the Year” by the Puget Sound Business Journal and “Industry Attorney of the Year” by Dope Magazine. She regularly speaks about cannabis and legal topics at conferences and to media outlets.
Shawnta Hopkins-Greene is the founder and CEO of several cannabis organizations, including MMJ Advocates Group, CannX LLC, and Cannabis Development Corporation. CannX provides a network of providers for medical patients looking for a physician’s recommendation all along the East Coast, from New York to Ohio. Aside from providing an invaluable service to new and potential medical cannabis patients, Ms. Hopkins-Greene teamed up with Chanda Macias, the owner of National Holistic Healing Center in Washington, DC. The two work together not only to engage communities of color on the topic of cannabis and how their communities are impacted by the war on drugs, but also meet regularly with other moms who use cannabis – “cannamoms,” if you will – to advocate for parents who consume.
Melissa Mentele has been an advocate for cannabis in one of the toughest states for US cannabis policy. She campaigned to be the representative for District 19 of South Dakota on a platform of medical marijuana legalization, winning the Democratic nomination but not the election. She also organized the campaign to legalize medical cannabis with New Approach South Dakota, collecting signatures and enlisting volunteers to spread the good word and inform voters about cannabis. Even when the petition did not gather enough signatures for a 2016 push, Ms. Mentele continued to persevere. She has advocated and testified in favor of a new CBD measure, Senate Bill 95, which was just approved by the South Dakota House of Representatives. Keep fighting!