For a long time, stereotypes about cannabis culture centred on the figure of the stoner dude. Women took a back seat in the popular imagination when it came to weed warriors. Well, that was then, and this is now. With the cannabis industry booming, it's time to recognise the highly skilled women who have been leading the charge. While there are many worthy marijuana mavens, we've chosen to highlight 8 of the key players.

Whether it's Ann Lee, a Texas Republican fighting the War on Drugs, Dr Suzanne Sisley, a medical cannabis pioneer breaking down barriers to patient access, or Fernanda de la Figuera, the rebellious weed granny going toe-to-toe with the Spanish government, women are leaders in all aspects of the cannabis industry. They are highly skilled activists, scientists, lawyers, and top-level executives. They come from a variety of backgrounds and political persuasions, but agree on two things: cannabis should be legal, and there's more work to be done.


Here are 8 of the most influential women in cannabis today.

Ann Lee

Ann Lee is an American cannabis activist with an unexpected profile. A lifelong Republican, she used to believe propaganda that marijuana was a dangerous gateway drug. Cut to today, and Ann is a badass octogenarian, cannabis legalization advocate, and founder of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP). So, what happened?

When Ann was sixty years old, her son Richard was in an accident. He was left partially paralysed, with severe nerve pain. Richard found research suggesting cannabis might help ease his pain, leading Ann on a path of discovery.

Ann became an activist, fighting for cannabis legalization. In 2012, while speaking to the issue on a panel, she realised other panel members were also Republicans. Together, they formed RAMP. Heading into her nineties, Ann is still fighting the good fight. Her message? The War on Drugs is racist and cannabis prohibition is antithetical to Republican values of freedom and individual liberty.

Ann Lee

Amy Margolis

Amy Margolis is a lawyer and cannabis advocate. She founded the Oregon Cannabis Association, the state's largest advocacy group. More recently, she created The Initiative: an accelerator that helps female-founded cannabis businesses achieve success. It provides mentoring, education, help finding funding, and a huge network of women helping women. Prior to her business ventures, she worked for years as a lawyer, fighting for the rights of cannabis users.

Once cannabis became legal in Oregon, Amy recognised there was more work to be done. Past criminalisation is still a major issue affecting people's lives. Amy has held workshops across the state on how residents can get marijuana charges expunged from their record. A policy powerhouse, she testifies frequently to government bodies on issues around cannabis, sentencing reform, and gender equity.

Amy Margolis

Wanda James

Black communities in the US have been heavily criminalised by the War on Drugs, often bearing the brunt of legal crackdowns on cannabis. Now that cannabis is legal in certain states, racial inequities haven't disappeared. The US legal cannabis industry is still overwhelmingly white-owned[1].

Wanda James is fighting to change that. A veteran and former Fortune 100 executive, Wanda was the first Black woman to own a legal dispensary in the US. Together, she and her husband own Simply Pure Dispensary in Denver, Colorado. They were also the first African Americans to start a legal cannabis cultivation facility and edibles company. Making no apologies, Wanda continues to fight for racial justice at the cutting edge of the cannabis industry.

Wanda James

Allison Margolin

Cannabis is in Allison Margolin's blood (and not in the way you think). So is the law. She was born in the late 1970s to two criminal defense attorneys. At the time, her father was the director of NORML—National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws—one of the landmark cannabis decriminalisation groups in the US. Allison has been speaking out against drug criminalisation since before she was old enough to drive.

Today, she is a graduate of Harvard Law School and one of the first attorneys to specialise in cannabis law. Her firm, Margolin & Lawrence, practices a combination of medical marijuana regulatory and business law, as well as criminal defense at the federal and state levels. Allison Margolin's book, Just Dope, is a personal memoir and political history of the War on Drugs. It comes out in 2022.

Allison Margolin

Dr Sue Sisley

Dr Suzanne Sisley is a psychiatrist and leader in the field of cannabis science. She is known for her trailblazing research into the medical applications of cannabis, investigating its potential as a treatment for PTSD.

With her own vision impaired by an eye disorder since birth, Sue knows the importance of accessibility. Since 2009, she has operated a full-time telemedicine practice, harnessing cutting-edge technology like digital stethoscopes to treat patients in rural and underserved areas. She also educates other doctors on the benefits of cannabis, working to counter misinformation and break down stigma.

For over a decade, Dr Sisley has fought to push cannabis flower through the FDA drug development process. Right now, a lot of patients can barely afford to pay for medical cannabis treatment. If Dr Sisley is successful, insurance companies in the US will have to cover cannabis like any other pharmaceutical.

Dr Sue Sisley

Jessica Billingsley

Jessica Billingsley serves as Akerna’s Chief Executive Officer. Akerna is a cutting-edge enterprise software dedicated to the cannabis industry. That makes Jessica a business leader in both the tech and cannabis spaces. Her software was one of the first to provide comprehensive plant analysis and tracking from seed to sale. This involved closing information gaps in supply chain tracking, including data about a plant's genetic makeup.

In 2015, Jessica was named one of Fortune’s Most Promising Female Entrepreneurs. In June 2019, Akerna became the first cannabis software company to be listed on the Nasdaq, with Jessica at the helm.

Jessica Billingsley

Cindy Capobianco

In 2019, Kim Kardashian threw herself a CBD-themed baby shower. Whether you care about the Kardashians or not, it was a particular moment in the cultural zeitgeist. The event highlighted the unbridled success of CBD's entry into the mainstream.

Cindy Capobianco was one of the first to capitalise on the craze and recognise the high-end potential of CBD. Along with co-founder Robert Rosenheck, she runs Lord Jones, a luxury brand known for lavish, CBD-infused skincare products and gourmet edibles. Fittingly, Lord Jones is based out of Los Angeles. The brand perfectly taps into a particular California lifestyle, combining chill vibes and West Coast wellness with modern opulence. Cindy Capobiance has helped shape the high-end CBD market as we know it today, and we can't wait to see what she does next.

Cindy Capobianco

Fernanda de la Figuera

To close off this list, we've got another legendary elder. Known as Spain's "weed granny", Fernanda de la Figuera is a veteran of the legalization movement. In Spain, weed is illegal for commercial purposes but decriminalised for personal cultivation and use. Personal cultivators will often form cannabis clubs; they make collective agreements for shared consumption and don't distribute beyond their circle.

Fernanda's cannabis club, "Marias x Maria", was formed to help women who use medical cannabis access a safe supply. For her noble efforts, Spain's weed granny was charged with trafficking and sentenced to nine months in prison. The absurdity of the charges and targeting of an elderly woman highlights how far Spain still has to go with its cannabis laws. But, you can't keep a good woman down, and Fernanda plans to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. You go, granny!

Fernanda de la Figuera

External Resources:
  1. How Big Weed Shut Out People of Color and Became a Rich White Business https://www.insider.com
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