As part of our ongoing Female Forces series to celebrate Women’s History Month (March), we’re highlighting some of the leading women in cannabis.
Historically, women have been vastly underrepresented in leadership roles across numerous industries. According to a study conducted by Catalyst, women only comprise 4.8 percent of CEO roles in S&P 500 companies, and make up less than half of the total workforce, at 44.7 percent. But tides are changing, and women are poised to step into more leadership roles over the next several years — especially in the cannabis industry.
Legal cannabis is a relatively new industry — one that has often been described as the new ‘wild west.’ A shorter history means there is less precedence of men in leadership roles, making it easier for women to hold these roles. In fact, women hold more executive positions in the cannabis industry than in the average U.S. business. Here’s a look at some of the leading women of cannabis.
1. Krista Whitley: CEO, Altitude Products
Krista Whitley began her business, Altitude Products, from her home in 2015. At the time, she hadn’t been a cannabis consumer for long. She had only tried the drug for the first time a few years prior after a car accident left her with chronic back pain. Three years later, Altitude Products launched, employing 27 people and generating $7.6 million in revenue.
However, it hasn’t always been an easy journey for the cannabis leader. Whitley recalled an early episode to Forbes, where she met with an angel investor whose response to her pitch was, “I think it’s cute you want to make money like the big boys.” She didn’t let the sexism deter her from her goals and pushed back by filling her board entirely with women, investing in other female-led cannabis companies like Jane West, and raising $10 million in Series A funding on her own. This year Altitude Products, whose best-selling brands include Bella and Black Belt CBD, is poised to bring in a jaw-dropping $32 million in revenue, which would make Whitley’s company one of the most successful in the industry.
2. Nancy Whiteman: Founder and CEO, Wana Brands
Founder and CEO of Wana Brands, Nancy Whiteman is regarded by Inc. Magazine as “The Queen of Legal Weed.” Whiteman owns a business creating edibles, extracts, and medicinals. She founded Wana Brands in 2010. It’s since become the No. 1 edibles producer in Colorado’s highly competitive market.
Wana Brands has a presence in four states: Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, and Nevada. With massive success under her belt already, the Wana Brand empire continues to grow with further expansions planned for Illinois, Michigan, and Florida this year.
3. Kristi Knoblich Palmer: Co-Founder, Kiva
Since its launch 8 years ago, Kiva has developed into one of the most recognized edibles brands on the market. Their chocolate bars, gummies, mints, and terra bites are all made with the highest quality ingredients and consistent doses of CBD and THC.
Always an innovator, Palmer launched Kiva alongside her husband Scott Palmer a few years after graduating from Brooks Institute. Her creative background has been instrumental in developing products and packaging as well as marketing strategies. Kristi has zeroed in on the goal of continuing to develop products that serve those suffering from chronic pain or crippling anxiety, while still remaining on the cutting edge of industry standards and practices. Palmer’s also helped Kiva set their sites on being the most loved brand in the cannabis industry — a lofty goal, but one they’re well on their way to achieving.
4. Anne-Marie Dacyshyn: CMO, dosist
When Anne-Marie Dacyshyn joined dosist in 2018, she was eager to continue placing emphasis on the wellness aspect of the brand, transforming it from just another CBD company to a “modern wellness company.” dosist’s proprietary cannabis pen offers a safe, consistent dose of various formulas designed to promote sleep, pain relief, calmness, and more. And it’s this focus on cannabis as a natural alternative — that can support and enrich a pre-existing wellness routine — that Dacyshyn believes has attracted more women to dosist than to almost any other brand on the market.
Prior to stepping into her role as dosist’s CMO, Dacyshyn was the CMO at Burton Snowboards and a Creative Director at Gravis Footwear, bringing years of experience and expertise to her current position. She’s excited about continuing to build a diverse and female-filled team at dosist, driven by the mission to provide education and awareness for cannabis while breaking down the stigma that currently surrounds the “amazing plant.”
5. Lisa Hurwitz: Chief Growth Officer, Grassroots
Grassroots is one of the most premiere medical cannabis growers in the industry. With locations in Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Dakota, they are truly a national brand. They owe much of their continued success to Chief Growth Officer, Lisa Hurwitz.
Before breaking into the cannabis industry, Hurwitz was the VP of Global Marketing at Kimberly Clark. Leveraging her talent for growing brands and developing effective growth strategies, Hurwitz has helped Grassroots hone in on their mission of education, innovation, and service. Poised to open more dispensaries, brands, and greenhouses over the next few years, cannabis industry insiders can expect to see a lot more from Hurwitz.
6. Tahira Rehmatullah: Managing Director, Hyur Ventures and CFO, MTech Acquisition Corp
Many women in cannabis owe their jobs to the work of Tahira Rehmatullah. The Managing Director at strategic venture capital fund Hypur Ventures, Tahira helps early-stage leaders and companies realize their ideas. Additionally, her work at MTech Acquisition Corp, where she is the CFO, focuses on investing only in companies in the cannabis industry. She spends her time acting as a consultant for female leaders, especially those who are focused on bringing diversity to the industry and championing social impact initiatives. Drawn to the industry after watching her grandfather struggle with cancer, Rehmatullah is driven by the frustration that cannabis isn’t readily available for those struggling with pain and other afflictions.Rehmatullah has been named one of Forbes’ Top 5 Women in Cannabis and is certainly someone to watch as the field continues to grow.
7. Jennifer Chapin: Co-Founder, Kikoko
Launched in 2014, Kikoko makes cannabis-infused herbal teas formulated to help consumers with everything from sleep to sex. Jennifer Chapin and her co-founder, Amanda Jones, launched the brand after a friend of theirs was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After observing how much cannabis helped with pain management, nausea, and appetite, Chapin was inspired to create an alternative to the standard pharmaceuticals. The teas are all considered low-dose products, with between 3-10 milligrams of THC, making them perfect for those who don’t regularly indulge. Chapin goes out of her way to be a leader in the industry, doing things like giving back by relieving some of the financial hardship faced by families whose children deal with seizure disorders and ensuring that her female employees are paid and valued as equally as their male peers. A mentor to plenty of women who are just beginning their careers in cannabis, Chapin is the kind of leader we hope to see more of in this field.
Interested in exploring a career in cannabis? Check out our specialized HerbForce division to learn more.
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