As the cannabis industry matures and improves, we have its women to thank for numerous contributions—everything from improving processes in getting clones or seed to sale, to consulting startups on how to launch their businesses.
Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, we are reflecting on women’s achievements and contributions in the industry.
At Cannabis Conference 2020, taking place April 21-23 in Las Vegas, these women will speak on subjects as far-ranging as pest and disease challenges in growing hemp, tips for hiring and retaining dispensary staff, and cannabinoid and terpene science—all to help the industry continue to progress.
We'd like to thank them for speaking at Cannabis Conference 2020 and for continuing to make impactful and far-reaching contributions to the market.
Dr. Leslie Apgar, Greenhouse Wellness
Dr. Leslie Apgar is a board-certified OBGYN with 17 years of experience in direct patient care. She is also the co-founder and medical director of Greenhouse Wellness, as well as co-founder of Blissiva, a female-focused cannabis line. Apgar is also the founder of Pura Vida, a cosmetic spa and laser center in operation for 12 years.
Dr. Janna Beckerman, Purdue University
Dr. Janna Beckerman is a professor and extension plant pathologist specializing in diseases of horticultural crops at Purdue University. She obtained her Ph.D. in plant pathology from Texas A&M University, and her M.S. and B.S. in Biology from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
Marguerite Bolt, Purdue University
Marguerite Bolt is the hemp Extension specialist at Purdue University in the Department of Agronomy. She received her M.S. in Entomology from Purdue University, and her B.S in Entomology from Michigan State University. Bolt’s research has focused on hemp-insect interactions and plant chemistry. She is interested in the secondary compounds that hemp produces and how they affect insect pests, although she has had to shift her focus to agronomic production questions surrounding hemp. Her position is new to Indiana and she is serving as a catalyst to link growers to production facilities and the research community through online resources, field days, and workshops.
Emma Chasen, Eminent Consulting
Emma Chasen is a Brown University graduate with a specialized Biology degree in Medicinal Plant Research. Chasen created the role of Director of Education at the venerable Portland cannabis dispensary Farma where she developed a robust training curriculum rooted in cannabis science, product knowledge and empathetic patient care. Chasen now co-owns and operates Eminent Consulting, a firm that specializes in helping brands develop educational marketing collateral and ongoing educational programs to further elevate their brand presence in a competitive industry.
Mackenzie Ditch Wilcox, Cresco Labs
Mackenzie Ditch Wilcox currently serves as Counsel - License Applications for Cresco Labs, a vertically-integrated, multi-state cannabis operator headquartered in Chicago, Ill. Wilcox’s legal background in tax, business and grant writing brings a unique and focused perspective to merit-based cannabis applications. In this position, Wilcox utilizes her legal education and experience to guide the license application process for the company, including licensing, regulatory incorporation and application strategy. In addition, Wilcox helps manage the application licensure process of Cresco Labs’ Social Equity and Education Development (SEED) program, which aids qualifying Social Equity Applicants in applying for various cannabis licenses. To date, the SEED program has incubated and assisted over 40 social equity-qualifying entities in applying for licensure in various areas of the cannabis industry, including retail, craft grow and infuser applications in Illinois.
Wilcox received her bachelor’s degree from Loyola University Chicago and her Juris Doctorate at DePaul University College of Law. Prior to joining Cresco Labs in July 2019, Wilcox worked as a civil litigator in Chicago, Ill. She is a member of the Cook County Bar Association and Illinois State Bar Association.
Gina Dubbé, Greenhouse Wellness
Gina Dubbé is a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Currently, she serves as the managing director and co-founder of Greenhouse Wellness, a medical cannabis dispensary in Maryland and is also co-founder of Blissiva, a female-focused cannabis line. Prior to her work in the cannabis industry, Dubbe co-founded TheraPearl, a hot and cold compress. Her work with TheraPearl led the company to rank on the Inc. 500 list and she received accolades including "Forbes Magazine Women Who Built Outstanding Businesses."
Debby Goldsberry, Magnolia Wellness
Debby Goldsberry is executive director at Magnolia Wellness, an award-winning dispensary in Oakland, Calif., and the managing director of the Berkeley Community Care Center dispensary at Amoeba Music. She co-founded the Berkeley Patients Group (BPG) medical cannabis collective in 1999, directing its growth for more than 11 years. In 2017, Goldsberry published her first book, “Idiot’s Guide: Starting and Running a Marijuana Business.”
Tina Gordon, Moon Made Farms
Tina Gordon is the founder and owner of Moon Made Farms, a Sun and Earth Certified regenerative Sungrown Cannabis farm in Southern Humboldt County. Moon Made Farms sits at 2,100 feet elevation in a south facing oak grove and is guided by lunar farming, supported by full sun, fresh air, and rain caught water. Full season plants are grown from seed in hügelkultur mounds, beds, and trenches that were built from materials sourced from the land. Tina is a founding member of the international Cannabis Farmers Association and co-owner of San Francisco’s Vapor Room.
Scottie Gordon, Curaleaf, Inc.
Scottie Gordon is Vice President of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs at Curaleaf, Inc., headquartered in Wakefield, Mass. Prior to joining Curaleaf in April 2019, Scottie was Chief Operating Officer of Ermont, Inc., the seventh vertically integrated medical marijuana facility to open in Massachusetts. In addition to overseeing a 36,000-square-foot cultivation, production and retail facility that operated seven days a week, she managed all department heads to ensure production schedules and sales forecasts were met and that all human and capital resources were properly allocated to maximize growth. Her background as an attorney was a critical component in her role at Ermont when it came to regulatory compliance, licensing, risk management, corporate and physical security, cash management, and inventory control. A graduate of Michigan State University and New England School of Law, Gordon was an associate at a Boston law firm where she primarily advised clients in the cannabis industry on corporate, licensing, regulatory and compliance matters.
Michelle Hackett, Riverview Farms
Michelle Hackett, president of Riverview Farms, brings three generations of agricultural knowledge to the cannabis industry. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from St. Mary’s College of California, and years of experience in Sales & Marketing for agriculture, she continues to elevate RVF’s role in the industry. She and her sister, Lauren Hackett, who leads RVF’s Retail Division, have helped shape Riverview Farms into the largest female-minority owned and operated cannabis company in the world.
Wanda James, Simply Pure
Wanda James is the co-founder and CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary in Denver and is a leading advocate in the cannabis industry. She is also the founder and President of the Cannabis Global Initiative (CGI), a marketing and consulting firm that specializes in diversity development, regulatory framework and marketing. She was appointed to the Los Angeles Small and Local Business Commission and sat on the Board of Directors for the Starlight Children’s Foundation, and the Board of Directors of the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce.
Haylee Kidd, Safety Vision
Haylee Kidd is the West Coast Account Executive for Safety Vision. Haylee graduated from Texas State University with honors and started her journey at Safety Vision as an intern. She was quickly offered a full-time job as an inside sales representative and then promoted to oversee the West Coast division for Safety Vision. Haylee has spent years learning the ins and outs of the cannabis industry, including its compliance laws. She has worked with numerous customers to create a customized solution tailored to their specific needs. Haylee strongly believes security is a top priority in the cannabis industry, and she is ready to show you why!
Emily Kowalski, LeafLine Labs, LLC
Emily Kowalski is the Director of Cultivation at LeafLine Labs, LLC, one of two medical cannabis companies serving the patients of Minnesota. She utilizes her 10 years of experience in propagation, greenhouse production and outdoor nursery production to cultivate consistent, healthy cannabis in LeafLine’s state-of-the-art indoor facility. Kowalski never settles for status quo and digs deep into data to drive quality and efficiency within her operation. She received her B.S. in Horticulture from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Cassie Neiden, Cannabis Business Times, Cannabis Dispensary & Hemp Grower
Cassie Neiden rejoined GIE Media/Cannabis Conference as its Conference Programming Director in February 2020. From 2014 to 2019, she held several editorial roles at GIE Media with titles such as Cannabis Business Times, Cannabis Dispensary, Garden Center, Greenhouse Management, and more.
Previously, Neiden served as Director of Marketing & Communications for Firelands Scientific, an Ohio-based vertically integrated medical cannabis company. Within the state’s nascent and tightly regulated market, Neiden led the company’s community outreach efforts and helped to launch its infused products line—including tinctures, edibles and solventless concentrates.
Neiden is also an experienced freelance writer, with bylines in Martha Stewart Weddings, Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Cleveland Magazine. She is an alumna of Kent State University’s School of Journalism & Mass Communication with a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism.
Alice O’Leary-Randall, Mary’s Medicinals Publications
Alice O’Leary-Randall is a senior spokesperson for the medical cannabis movement, co-founded in 1976 with her late husband, Robert C. Randall, the first person in the U.S. to legally receive medical cannabis. For more than two decades the two worked tirelessly to reform the prohibitions against cannabis. After her husband’s untimely death in 2001, O’Leary-Randall became a hospice nurse and later a grief counselor. She retired in 2012 and re-entered the medical cannabis field. She frequently writes and speaks on the issue. Working with Mary’s Medicinals of Denver she developed the Cannabis Primer series in 2015 and Mary’s Prime Time in 2017. She has served on the Board of Directors for American Cannabis Nurses Association and the advisory board for United in Compassion, an Australian medical cannabis organization. Her book, Medical Marijuana in America: Memoir of a Pioneer was first released in April 2014. Her most recent book, released on December 17, 2019, is Pain-Free with CBD, co-authored by Eloise Theisen and published by Rockridge Press.
Alisia Ratliff, Independent Consultant
Alisia Ratliff, PMP, is an accomplished Chemist and licensed Project Manager, who boasts more than nine years of experience from various industries. She has successfully managed a start-up operation from build-out to launch, led an expansion of a high-producing cannabis manufacturer, and independently consulted many private companies on design of processing facilities, equipment sourcing, financial projections, talent sourcing and product development using a breadth of technical knowledge.
Dr. Nadia Sabeh, Dr. Greenhouse Inc.
Jamie Schau, Brightfield Group
Jamie Schau attained an M.A. in Global Policy and Strategy from the University of California, San Diego, and has been with Brightfield Group since early 2015, performing quantitative and qualitative analyses of various aspects of the U.S. and global cannabis markets as Head of Research.
Anna Shreeve, Urban Paragon, Inc., Targeted Intent, Inc. and The Bakeréé
Anna Shreeve is president of Urban Paragon, Inc., Targeted Intent, Inc., and The Bakeréé. Shreeve entered the medical cannabis industry seven years ago with her son, and she and her team opened The Bakeréé, a division of Cookie Fam Genetics, a collaboration with legendary breeder “Jigga.” Shreeve’s group holds two recreational producer/processor licenses in Washington, and a recreational retail/processor license in Oregon.
Zoe Sigman, Project CBD & Broccoli Magazine
Zoe Sigman is the Program Director for Project CBD and the Science Editor for Broccoli Magazine. She has built out educational content focusing on scientific information about cannabis for organizations like Farma and Groundworks Industries, Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU), and Hudson Hemp. Sigman has also testified about CBD and cannabis regulation to the FDA, and regularly speaks about cannabis and cannabis science to patients, medical professionals and consumers.
Michelle Simakis, Cannabis Business Times & Cannabis Dispensary
Michelle Simakis is editor of Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary. She joined GIE Media in 2012 and most recently served as editor of Garden Center magazine, the leading trade publication covering the independent garden retail market. Under her direction, Garden Center expanded its Top 100 Independent Garden Centers List by devoting an entire issue to telling the stories of the leaders and companies ranked on the list. She also helped to launch the Garden Center Executive Summit, the educational conference for key-decision makers in the industry, and recently developed a the only daily e-newsletter in the market. Simakis received her bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
Noelle Skodzinski, Cannabis Business Times, Cannabis Dispensary & Hemp Grower
Noelle Skodzinski has 20+ years’ experience in publishing. She co-founded Cannabis Business Times with previous owner Tim Hermes in 2014. She has been named among the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Cannabis. In 2012, she founded mediaShepherd–a website serving media professionals–where she served as president and editorial director. Previously, she was editorial director of the Publishing Group at North American Publishing Co., where she oversaw two national business magazines, all related digital content products, as well as the annual Publishing Business Conference, and Publishing Business Virtual Conference. Skodzinski also held posts as editor of The Crafts Report magazine, managing editor for Inside Direct Mail and senior writer for Target Marketing, among other posts.
Andrea Sparr-Jaswa, Cannabis Business Times & Cannabis Dispensary
Andrea Sparr-Jaswa joined GIE Media, Inc. in August 2019 as the science editor for Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary magazines. Previously, she held the title of Director of Education at the science-focused dispensary Farma in Portland, Ore., where she curated weekly staff educational sessions, analyzed lab data, promoted community outreach and consulted with clients one-on-one. Her time in Oregon working with some of the cannabis industry’s top educators and researchers instilled a deep appreciation for developing transparency and trust through the language of science.
Dr. Jade Stefano, Puffin Farm
Dr. Jade Stefano is co-founder and CEO at Puffin Farm, a Washington State sungrown cannabis producer and processor licensed since 2014. Stefano is on the Board of Directors of the Washington Sungrowers Industry Association, a non-profit that advocates and lobbies for sungrown cannabis farmers’ interests in the state. She holds an undergraduate degree in Biology from Reed College and is a state-licensed Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine. At Puffin Farm, Stefano oversees operations, product development and co-manages crop production with her husband Benjamin Short. She has been a cultivator for over 20 years.
Anna Symonds, East Fork Cultivars
Anna Symonds is the Director of Education for East Fork Cultivars, running the CBD Certified free educational program which has directly taught cannabis science to thousands of people including the staffs of more than 100 Oregon dispensaries. Symonds holds an MA in Communication and is an active athlete competing in the USA Rugby Women's Premier League. As an Athlete Ambassador for the nonprofit Athletes for CARE, Symonds advocates for cannabis rights, education, and research.
Sumer Thomas, Canna Advisors
As a licensed attorney and licensing specialist, Sumer Thomas offers a unique perspective on the legal landscape of the cannabis industry as well as a critical eye towards new laws. Thomas’ main focus is supporting the needs of her clients while delivering superior competitive license application content and consulting services. Thomas manages complex processes across a full spectrum of client needs that range from license applications to operations readiness and exit strategy. Thomas’ interest in the evolution of cannabis markets is bolstered by her law degree from the University of Florida. Her legal background in tax, business and administrative law brings a broad perspective for solving clients’ complex problems. Thomas has an in-depth understanding of mature and developing state cannabis markets—gained from working in over a dozen states—along with a global perspective gained while living abroad. Thomas works for Canna Advisors, one of the premier cannabis consulting firms in the country, which boasts experience in 30 U.S. states (plus D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and Canada). Thomas is a licensed attorney in both Florida and Colorado. She is a member of NORML, the NCIA, the Colorado Bar Association and the Boulder County Bar Association.
Priscilla Vilchis, Premium Produce
Wearing multiple hats, Priscilla Vilchis is the CEO and CMO of Premium Produce. She is a self-made business magnate and was the youngest and first-ever minority female CEO to be awarded licenses to cultivate and produce medical and retail (recreational) cannabis in Nevada and recently launched her “Reina” cannabis brand. Vilchis’ ultimate goal is to generate reimbursements from health insurance providers for medical cannabis.