Women of Influence: Angela Pih Is Walking the Walk

One of Angela Pih’s favorite aspects of the cannabis industry is its velocity. What she’s referring to is the “incredibly exciting” speed of bringing new products to market within months. With extensive experience across retail, consumer packaged goods and cannabis, Pih is head of marketing for StateHouse Holdings, a vertically integrated California-based cannabis enterprise. From the moment she engages you in conversation, it’s quite evident the woman knows what she’s talking about.

One industry trajectory Pih isn’t a fan of is the dramatic decrease in the number of women in the C-Suite holding leadership positions. Over the last year, she says, many women have either been pushed out or simply burned out. 

“Everybody’s struggling right now,” Pih says, naming the challenges of over-taxation and overregulation as particularly responsible for the woeful decline in women executives. “As companies become leaner, many women are trying to weather the storm.” 

With fewer women in leadership roles, Pih is eager to support other women and nurture the next generation of female executives and leaders in cannabis.  “What are we doing to cultivate that level of expertise so that they can sustain the challenges and growth within this industry?” Pih asks. “We all talk about it, but are we doing anything about it? Actions speak louder than words.”

Pih says she feels lucky when it comes to her own experience as a leader, as she’s been widely respected and supported. However, she acknowledges that if women aren’t in the founder role or in the CEO’s office, it can be “very challenging for women to keep within the decision-making roles of a company.”

For other women wanting to move into cannabis, Pih says it’s important to be confident and to know your worth.

“People get very excited about joining a cannabis company because it’s exciting and they allow themselves to accept roles that are maybe below what their expertise is—and maybe below the kind of compensation they should have,” Pih says. “Historically, women aren’t as good at negotiating as men, especially when it comes to their salary compensation. I always say to women to know what they’re worth. You’re going to bring something to the table and it’s important to stand up for that.”

Legacy growers and small farmers play an important role at StateHouse Holdings. Pih spearheaded an initiative that ensures shelf space for small craft sungrown farmers in StateHouse-owned dispensaries, including history-making Urbn Leaf West Hollywood—the first adult-use dispensary to open in Los Angeles’ fabled Sunset Strip.

“There are fewer and fewer legacy farmers and craft growers because they’ve been unable to operate,” says Pih, who reveals she wants to “support these farmers, preserve their expertise and preserve strain diversity during these very early stages of our industry’s development.”

Pih is also determined to band together for a unified cannabis industry. She says she sees it as a requirement for more favorable taxation laws. “We’re not able to do anything about it as individual companies; we have to come together as an industry, regain trust for one another and find ways to be effective as a collective.” 

As the proverb says, unity is strength. Exactly.

This story was originally published in issue 48 of the print edition of Cannabis Now. Read it now on the Cannabis Now iTunes app.

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Women of Influence: Laganja Estranja

Jay Jackson, who’s also known as Laganja Estranja, rose to fame as the undeniable breakout star on season six of the Emmy-winning RuPaul’s Drag Race. The world-renowned choreographer and artist is a fierce cannabis and LGBTQ+ advocate who champions diversity and representation for the cannabis industry’s queer community. Estranja came out as transgender in 2021 and says she’s using her platform to educate the industry.

“The reason we have medical marijuana is because of the queer community,” Estranja says. “I felt a lineage—like my ancestors called me to do this work.”

Estranja started using cannabis medicinally in high school to help unblock her creativity while working on a dance piece that would land her a spot on the prestigious list of US Presidential Scholars in the Arts, one of the highest honors a young artist can receive. “I couldn’t figure out a part of the choreography, so my friend suggested I try cannabis,” she says. “It allowed me to be more creative and freed my mind.”

Later, in college, an accident during dance rehearsal led her to see a chiropractor who suggested using cannabis for pain management. It was a pivotal moment in her affinity with the plant. “I realized then that this wasn’t only medicine; I could also use it recreationally or creatively,” she says. “That’s when I developed a much stronger relationship with cannabis and decided to create Laganja Estranja and spread that knowledge.”

While Estranja acknowledges gender bias in the industry has improved in the past decade, she also says she believes “sexism and misogyny are still very much alive in the cannabis industry” and that women must fight harder for equality.

She especially would like to see more sisterhood support among women in the business.
“A lot of times, women have to fight so hard to get into the industry that there’s not always camaraderie among us,” Estranja says. “As women, we’ve got to come together and support one another. When we’re in positions of power, hire other women.”

She offers sage advice for other women looking to enter the industry: “Do your research, be educated on the plant and be prepared to come with guns blazing. Ultimately, you must be brave—it takes a lot of bravery to be a cannabis activist—especially as a queer woman.”

This story was originally published in issue 48 of the print edition of Cannabis Now. Read it now on the Cannabis Now iTunes app.

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‘The Queen Of Legal Weed’ Has Spoken

Few female entrepreneurs have enjoyed the kind of widespread accolades and recognition in the cannabis industry as Nancy Whiteman. Often called “The Queen of Legal Weed,” Whiteman is founder of the Wana Brands Foundation and CEO and co-founder of Wana Brands, North America’s leading cannabis edibles brand available in 15 states and throughout Canada. 

Whiteman says Wana Brands’ mission is to create efficacious products that deliver customized experiences for health and wellness or recreational effects. The company places a strong emphasis on delivering quality products. “That’s the only way to provide consumers with real value and to differentiate yourself in the space,” she says.  

Since starting the company in Boulder, CO in 2010, Whiteman has witnessed the cannabis industry’s profound—and undeniable—evolution firsthand. 

“It was like the Wild West—no requirements to test for potency, no child-resistant packaging and no rules about pesticides or solvent usage or levels,” she says. “Now we have a far more regulated, safe and sophisticated industry.” 

While the landscape is very different today, Whiteman says much still remains the same, and she advises company leaders to be realistic about what they can do.   

“It’s important to focus on not getting out over your skis,” she says. “If you’re going to be in the cannabis industry, you better be able to roll with the punches, adapt to change and find that exhilarating rather than draining.”

Unlike most of Colorado’s other original cannabis brands, Wana Brands is thriving with no signs of slowing down. In 2021, Wana agreed to sell to Canadian titan Canopy Growth for an all cash payment of $297 million. Shortly after, she took $50 million of the proceeds to launch the Wana Brands Foundation (WBF), which takes Wana Brands’ mission of enhancing lives through cannabis a step further. 

WBF allocates at least five percent of the endowment every year towards charitable initiatives, such as research and education, food security, shelter, safety, mental health, sustainability and social justice. While Whiteman is able to give back through the nonprofit, her primary role is working as Wana’s CEO, continuing to push the brand’s strategic vision forward. (Despite the acquisition, Canopy and Wana essentially operate as independent companies.) Whiteman’s leadership is instrumental in their growth into new and emerging markets. She also handles the development of strategic partnerships and licensing agreements in the US and abroad.

Whiteman says this year’s corporate goal is “making market share; not taking market share. Despite all the challenges, there are a number of bright spots in the industry. The key is to grow the market rather than to join the race to the bottom in pricing.”

When it comes to being a female chief executive, Whiteman says she hasn’t faced as many challenges as the vast majority of other women-owned businesses due to the fact that she was “able to bootstrap Wana Brands and never had to take on equity or debt.” 

“That said, as the market has grown, it favors the group of people who historically have had the easiest access to capital, and as such, the leadership of the industry has become whiter and male,” she says. ”And the fact is female entrepreneurs receive only about two percent of venture capital funding compared to their male counterparts. So, we certainly have some work to do there.”

For other women trying to make it in the cannabis industry, Whiteman advises them to “figure out your first step and see where you can go with it” and not to waste time ‘crossing t’s and dotting i’s’, because the industry changes too much, too often. 

“Sometimes people call me ‘Wana’s fearless leader’ and I laugh to myself. No entrepreneur worth their salt is fearless—it’s a scary thing to do,” she says. “My advice is simple: Don’t waste your time conjuring mythical attributes—trying to be the smartest, the most confident—because it’s just not realistic. Be resilient, be persistent and be accepting of the fact that fear and anxiety are part of the process. And don’t judge yourself for feeling that way.” 

This story was originally published in issue 48 of the print edition of Cannabis Now. Read it now on the Cannabis Now iTunes app.

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Tina Gordon

Tina Gordon is a cannabis cultivator, founder and owner of Moon Made Farms in Northern California’s Humboldt County. Once a drummer with various musical outfits in the San Francisco Bay Area and later a documentary filmmaker, Gordon moved to Humboldt in 2007, establishing herself on the 40-acre plot that would become Moon Made Farms. 

Specializing in sungrown organic cannabis that’s cultivated in alignment with the lunar calendar and regenerative cultivation methods, Moon Made Farms has won a reputation for pioneering an ecologically sustainable model for the cannabis industry. Gordon serves on the boards of the International Cannabis Farmers Association and Sun + Earth Certified, which has developed standards and a certification process for socially and ecologically responsible cannabis.

“The most powerful plant on the planet expresses itself in the female form. Cannabis is femininity embodied in a plant.” 

This story was originally published in issue 48 of the print edition of Cannabis Now. Read it now on the Cannabis Now iTunes app.

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Women of Influence: Kim Rivers

Arguably the most important woman in the cannabis industry, holding the position of chief executive officer at Florida-based cannabis behemoth Trulieve Cannabis Corp., a nationwide multi-state operator currently valued at $1.14B, Kim Rivers joined Trulieve at its inception and has since played a pivotal role in advancing the company’s customer-centric strategy, strong growth, strategic development and market-beating profitability. 

To assure quality, operational integrity and financial success, Rivers insists on supervising every step of the cannabis production process, from seed to sale. Before joining Trulieve, Rivers worked as an attorney in private practice specializing in mergers, acquisitions and securities for multi-million-dollar corporations. She’s also founded and operated numerous profitable enterprises, ranging from real estate to finance.

“Lean into your power, take your seat at the table and use your voice.” 

This story was originally published in issue 48 of the print edition of Cannabis Now. Read it now on the Cannabis Now iTunes app.

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Jamie Pearson: Wonder Woman

Few leaders in the cannabis industry are as highly respected and influential as Jamie Pearson. Period. 

After spending more than three decades in global real estate investment, Pearson took a new direction, embarking on a career in cannabis—an industry she admits to not embracing when she was younger. Pearson spent seven years with Bhang Inc., one of the world’s most recognized edible brands and known for its gourmet chocolate bars. For three of those years, she led the company’s diverse executive team, managed the “expansion through licensing” plan, ran the capital markets division and became the face of the brand that was catapulted globally before she departed in 2022. 

Utilizing her extensive experience, Pearson recently founded the New Holland Group, a global consulting firm serving international cannabis clients with expertise in operations, brand licensing, strategic planning, effective capital raising, executive coaching, celebrity partnerships, M&A deal structuring and financial turnarounds. Most of her clients deal with international expansion or licensing. 

Pearson is widely known as a popular and engaging speaker at industry events. She implores industry leaders to share access, reject the plant’s stigma and promote cannabis and hemp as gateways to wellness for not only physical health, but also communities and the planet. 

Despite her late entry into cannabis, Pearson’s exposure to the plant began at an early age. Her father has been growing cannabis for well more than half a century in her home state of Montana. It took music producer DJ Muggs, founder of the legendary hip-hop group Cypress Hill—and her first cousin—to change Pearson’s trajectory. About a decade ago, Muggs, who had been investing in real estate with Pearson, asked her to help the band find a weed deal. 

“He was comfortable doing business with me, and it led to me finding Bhang, and Cypress Hill then did a deal with Bhang,” she says. “One thing led to another, and the company asked me if I’d stay on.” 

After Bhang went public in July 2019, the board asked Pearson to come in as the interim CEO where she ended up serving from October 2019 to August 2022. “The unique part of my story was that I was a high school and college athlete and played basketball and was more interested in sports and education and bought into the whole War on Drugs and wasn’t a fan of my dad growing and using cannabis,” Pearson says. “When I started working for Bhang, I realized how many desperate people there were in pain and who couldn’t sleep. They were using our products, and it was making them feel better. It was a big wake-up call for me that the stigma was just garbage.” 

Pearson says she started examining her belief system even though she grew up around cannabis and knew it made her dad feel better after Vietnam. “I witnessed that, and it was part of my life, but the stigma was so powerful,” she says. “My dad was a root, and I was a suit. I worked as a middle school English teacher and taught German at the University of Oregon and had all kinds of professional jobs before I became a real estate investor. I then used my real estate investing tools to become successful in cannabis.”

Before entering the industry, Pearson hadn’t tried cannabis. What she says is that alcohol is poison and that much of the younger generation is rejecting it in favor of plant medicine. “I became evangelistic about it, working two to three years in the industry,” Pearson says. “Originally when I bought into it, it was about curiosity and out of a desire to do something with Muggs. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.” 

Pearson worked for Bhang for seven years and thinks no one should read anything into her departure last year. She says she never contemplated being the CEO of a public company, and once she took on the role, there was no path for her to leave until she forged one. Pearson dispels any notion her exit was abrupt and says she gave the board notice long before it came out publicly and there was a plan for succession. 

“Being a CEO of a public company for three years was enough,” Pearson says. “I didn’t leave Bhang to start the New Holland Group. That wasn’t the plan. I wanted to take a break and travel with my kids, and I had people coming out of the woodwork asking me what I was doing now.” 

Pearson refers to her time with Bhang as a wonderful experience, emphasizing how lucky she was to reinvent herself and learn a new skill in her 50s—what she calls an MBA by fire. As she puts it, “it’s about being thrown in the deep end of the pool and either sinking or swimming.”  

Despite her best efforts to “take a break,” Pearson says people kept asking her to work on their projects, and she gained consulting clients because she was available. She now sees how successfully taking Bhang across seven state lines, nine European countries and into Canada has positioned herself as one of the industry’s most sought-after speakers and advisors. “I became a popular speaker because I was in the trenches at the deepest level,” Pearson says. “I wasn’t just running a public company, but a cannabis company and brand that was doing well everywhere we existed because the products were good.”

Pearson says women aren’t committing unforced errors in the cannabis industry any more than men do and admits women are held to a double standard.

“I don’t think women are out there making a lot of mistakes,” she says. “I think women are responsible for 85 percent of all of the purchasing decisions in the household. The fact that there aren’t enough women at the table is a mistake all companies are making. There should be more women in leadership and the C-suites. That also holds true for people of color. When you look at the statistics of who uses cannabis, there’s absolutely no difference between white people and people of color.”

According to Pearson, during her tenure, Bhang’s board and management team were diverse across race, gender and sexual orientations. She sought out conversations with people who didn’t look like her or think like her because, according to Pearson, getting better meant welcoming many different viewpoints. 

“What’s wrong with America today is that social media and algorithms are putting more of what you know, like and are comfortable with in front of your face and it’s this confirmation bias,” Pearson says. “We need less of that.”

Pearson says she has a far greater inclination to fund female-owned businesses because by looking at the statistics, women-founded businesses operate at a higher rate of profitability and are run more efficiently.

“Women need to know they have the skills to be out there and do big things. They just need to have confidence in themselves and trust they can go and actually do it because we don’t have a lot of role models,” Pearson says. “That was certainly true for me when I was running this company. I had run a much larger real estate company. I had more employees and managed much more money in dollar value in assets in my real estate business. I started from the ground up, and everything I wanted to do I was allowed to do. In cannabis, you can’t bank and go get lines of credit and buy ad words. There are so many things you can’t do that you have to learn guerilla marketing and find workarounds. The cannabis industry required a tremendous ability to problem solve and stay within the guardrails of what was compliant and allowed.”

While Pearson clearly has a strong, highly valuable skillset, she says her love and acceptance of all people is what makes her truly stand out. Holding a belief that the world is abundant, Pearson proudly calls herself “approachable.” 

“Maybe it’s because I’m from Montana, and we don’t have six degrees of separation,” she says.

When it comes to her legacy in the male-dominated cannabis industry, Pearson wants to be known for making the journey easier for every person she encounters. 

“When I meet somebody new, I always ask them, ‘What can I do for you?’” Pearson says. “If they answer with something I can do, I do it; and I think that’s another part of my legacy. If I tell you I’m going to do something, you can take that to the bank. I’ll always do it.”

Pearson says she’s fortunate to have the support and friendship of a strong group of women in the cannabis industry who have made her own journey easier because she felt heard and didn’t have to do it alone. “I’m giving them a shoutout and letting them know they’ve really made a difference in my life,” a deadly serious Pearson says. “For women reading my words right now, in the actual moments you want to isolate yourself because you’re genuinely struggling, those are the precise moments you really need
to reach out and get the support you need.” 

This story was originally published in issue 48 of the print edition of Cannabis Now. Read it now on the Cannabis Now iTunes app.

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Lauren Morrow’s (Finally) Ready

Nashville-based singer-songwriter Lauren Morrow is turning 38 this summer. She says “almost forty” thoughts occasionally take over her brain, attempting to sabotage the wins of her past and present. The curly-haired, curvy blonde is perhaps best known for her decade-long tenure as frontwoman of the popular Atlanta-based Americana band, The Whiskey Gentry. But now Morrow’s exploring a different, truer side of herself with the recent release of her debut album, People Talk.

A window into Morrow’s life, the lyrics on the ten-track record all describe her own experiences. The first single, “Only Nice When I’m High,” is a seemingly lighthearted, catchy tune, but it has a big message that’s simultaneously combatting the stigmas surrounding both mental health and cannabis. 

The song’s accompanying music video features Morrow hanging out with a three-foot-tall joint that somewhat resembles a Sesame Street character—a similarity one may interpret as another attempt to normalize the plant. They chill on the couch together, go out and take photo booth selfies together, and yes, get high together. Like a true friend, cannabis is there for her when she needs it. 

The refrain is hard to forget: 

There’s only one remedy that I can find
to leave the prison of my mind

You know I’m only nice when I’m high 

It’s not difficult to understand what these lyrics mean—Morrow puts it all out there. “The song is a very intimate look inside my brain, my thoughts about myself and how I fit in the world around me,” she says. 

Speaking with Morrow from her home, the vocalist seems to be pleasantly surprised with the turn her life’s taken over the past few years. “If you would’ve told me when I was in my twenties that Cannabis Now would be interviewing me, I’d be like ‘yeah, fucking right’ because I just didn’t have any space in my life for marijuana, and now it’s something I use every day,” Morrow says, laughing. “I was the antithesis of a stoner in my twenties.” 

Morrow’s first time smoking weed wasn’t a great experience. She was 15 years old, with her older brother and his friends out in the garage while their mom was out. “I definitely had a panic attack that first night,” Morrow says. “I must have just smoked way too much for my brain to handle.”

After that, every time Morrow tried to smoke weed, her nerves would rise to uncomfortable levels. “That’s the interesting thing with panic attacks, because once you run one down, your brain can trigger you to think it again,” she says. “It wasn’t an enjoyable experience for me for a really long time.”

Years later while touring out with Whiskey Gentry in Colorado, Morrow decided to give cannabis another try. “Everyone in my band smoked weed, and I was like it would be nice to have something that could relax me, but not make me feel stupid,” Morrow says. So, she walked into a dispensary and explained to the budtender how she felt when consuming cannabis—how it heightened her anxiety and made her feel panicky. “I got a strain I really liked and started dipping my toe in it and noticed there was a huge difference in my personality in a good way when I’d get a little high,” she says. “It chills me out, so I’m not wound up so tight.” 

Lately, Morrow says her cannabis ritual takes place at the end of the day, just before bedtime. “My anxiety definitely ramps up in nighttime, so it’s been really nice to lean into that and just smoke some weed and turn my brain off and relax—not to have to think about what’s happening tomorrow, or what happened today, and just be more present.”

hip joint: Her hit single’s video features Morrow, who suffers from anxiety, hanging out with a three-foot-tall joint that resembles a Sesame Street character. “Weed chills me out, so I’m not wound up so tight.”

Living in Tennessee, where both medical and adult-use cannabis are illegal, it’s been hard for Morrow to get what she wants—unless she’s on tour. The idea to write a song about cannabis after all those years of thinking it “just wasn’t for her” came about while she and her husband and bandmate Jason Morrow, who she started Whiskey Gentry with, were Christmas shopping in an Atlanta City mall—undoubtedly an ambitious, anxiety-ridden task. Jason was getting stoned in the van before entering the madness and asked her if she wanted to take a hit. Morrow thought, “Yeah sure, why not?” 

As they walked around, she says her husband looked over and said, “Hey, you’re a lot nicer when you’re high.” Morrow immediately thought it would make for a good song and got to work. Since the single’s release, Morrow says she’s received a lot of responses from women sharing that their husbands feel the same way about them when they smoke or take an edible.

“I think it’s because as women we have so much that we’re thinking about all the time and it can be really hard to shut our brains off, with all the things we deal with at work and home,” she says. “For me, cannabis is something that helps with my general anxiety, just trying to get out of my own head, so I can relax and be cool.”

While “Only Nice When I’m High” is resonating with busy women nationwide, Morrow’s own journey finding peace has been a long one. It was just four years ago that she was officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. After deciding it was time to move on from Whiskey Gentry, Morrow and Jason moved to Nashville in 2017. Despite the close-knit community they found there, Morrow says some eye-opening experiences prompted her to seek professional help. 

“My anxiety was getting so out of control that it was making me depressed, and it was making me not want to do anything. I just wasn’t myself. I was terrified to take medication all the time, but it really has changed my life for the better, 100 percent,” Morrow says, sharing that she now takes an SSRI in combination with cannabis. “I have no shame in talking about that. I feel better on something than I’ve ever felt, and I just basically suffered up until I was 34 years old.”

As Morrow embraces the present moment, her life seems to be coming full circle—rediscovering the clarity of her youth. 

“I went through an intense awakening when we moved to Nashville that reminded me of who I was,” Morrow says. “In my twenties, I was all over the place. I was married, and I had a house, and I had all these things, but I didn’t know what I was doing or what I wanted to do, or if I was even really good at it. There was so much doubt and overthinking.”

People Talk—which Morrow says she and Jason ironically funded by selling cannabis during the pandemic—is the singer’s response to the doubt and all the negative noise that surrounds us. Understanding her musical influences, producer Parker Cason helped Morrow tap into her own sound which departs from the Americana and Bluegrass of her past and leaps into a new kind of “Psychedelic Geek Pop Country.” “What’s that?” Well, it’s Lauren Morrow. 

Releasing her debut album at this time in her life wasn’t exactly Morrow’s dream, she says. But age
is yet another stigma to be thrown in with all the judgement around mental health and cannabis. In the music industry particularly, Morrow says women are generally mistreated when it comes to how they look or how old they are. So, on the verge of releasing her first record, she couldn’t help but think, “Why would anyone give a shit? I’m a dinosaur. People are supposed to do this in their twenties.”

Never mind that she had in fact been making music all that time, touring nationwide with a critically acclaimed band that had already produced four albums. In the eyes of many, she was a success. Morrow was searching for something different though—she was searching for herself. “Now I realize it took all of that time—all of that stuff—to be able to not only find my own voice, but also to not be scared of it,” Morrow says. “This music sounds different than what I’ve done before.”

Knowing yourself is one thing; putting yourself out there and sharing it with the world is a whole different beast. Crystals, meditations and affirmations help remind her who she actually is and what she can accomplish. When Morrow first moved to the country music capital, she said she frequently meditated by saying: “Everything I want is coming, and it’s already there for me.” And whenever she looked in the bathroom mirror, this mantra greeted her: “Everything’s always working out for me.” 

Those kinds of self-care rituals helped Morrow build back the confidence she’d lost somewhere along the way. “I was never the most popular kid or the skinniest girl, but I always have had a lot of confidence, except for in my twenties,” Morrow says. “I finally feel like I’ve circled back around to ‘old Lauren.’ There’s something really freeing about not giving a shit. I am who I am, and I can’t change that, nor do I want to.”

Today, Lauren Morrow isn’t only nicer—she’s wiser—and she can, in part, thank cannabis. That’s something to sing about.  

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Emily Eizen, Cannabis Artist

By creating psychedelic-inspired works that defy convention, Emily Eizen, a queer multimedia artist and model, seamlessly merges cannabis and art while showcasing the beauty, freedom and diversity of the cannabis community.

Eizen says her relationship with cannabis began while studying political science at George Washington University in DC. Her social justice advocacy started off strong, holding the freshman chair position for the campus LGBTQ+ organization and meeting President Barack Obama. However, she says the culture shock of moving from a beachy Los Angeles suburb to the epicenter of the political universe was “a lot.” 

With an innate creative streak, Eizen’s passion for the arts defined much of her youth, offering her not only a way to express herself, but also to escape reality. When she left for college, she lost touch with that side of herself—that is, until she made friends with Mary Jane. 

“It was like picking up a paintbrush again,” Eizen says, describing the first time she smoked cannabis. “I found a creative spark I couldn’t contain; a rebirth almost.” 

Alia Kadir models for Miss Grass.

With that discovery, Eizen refocused her direction and moved back to California to study art full-time. Outside of her studies, she landed a job as a budtender in the legacy market, working in a few different places before finding her tribe at a West LA dispensary. There, Eizen says she first learned about the plant and its place in US history, specifically how it had been weaponized to incarcerate entire communities. “It caused me to reflect on my place in the world,” Eizen says. “It’s where I met and fostered a community of women and creative mentors throughout the cannabis scene.”

Shortly after, the dispensary promoted Eizen to social media manager—her first job in the industry other than budtender or receptionist. Around the same time, Prop 64 passed, and California’s adult-use market kicked off. Eizen’s blended passion for social change, cannabis and creativity all came to the fore. 

“I witnessed the male-dominated environment and misogyny that dominated cannabis culture transform into the corporate version,” she says. “Brands I saw weren’t creating diverse or artistic marketing content, let alone through the lens of a woman or a queer person. That’s when I first started to create it myself. Combining cannabis and art felt so right to me, using my place in this new, emerging industry to create real positive change.” 

Emily Eizen, Cannabis Artist
Emily Eizen: Self-portrait collage with eyes.

What also felt right, she says, is that through her art, Eizen showcases all the different kinds of people who use cannabis. It’s a way to focus on marginalized voices and to highlight the beauty of cannabis culture as a whole. Eizen says her goal is to keep cannabis and creativity intertwined and protected from the homogenous legal market. “In my opinion, when cannabis became corporatized, the whole idea of artists and creators using cannabis for centuries was forgotten or an afterthought,” she says. “By reigniting the creative spirit of cannabis culture through art, we preserve history while creating a better future.”

Working with cannabis culture legends Cheech and Chong “felt like total validation from the cannabis gods,” Eizen says. However, she’s quick to emphasize that while working with iconic celebrities is fun, her true passion lies in advocacy—releasing cannabis prisoners, in particular. “It’s the most enriching part of what I do,” she says, reinforcing that it’s not all social media glamor. Rather, she’s often invested in creative partnerships with nonprofits and major cannabis companies to share the stories of those impacted by incarceration. 

Dialló Mítch collage with cannabis.

Corvain Cooper was in prison for cannabis serving a life sentence until receiving clemency; Sean and Eboni Worsley, a veteran and his wife with PTSD who used cannabis medicinally and were arrested and sentenced for years,” she says. “These are the stories I must amplify through my work so that more people can bring awareness and pressure their representatives.”

In addition to advocating for those wrongfully behind bars, Eizen is also interested in keeping the passion for cannabis thriving within the industry, especially as it expands and more newcomers enter the space. While talent should always be recognized, the problem, as Eizen sees it, is a lack of passion for cannabis or knowledge of actual consumers. Her utopian future of the industry includes legalization and freedom for those wrongfully trapped behind bars. “Those affected and hurt by the War on Drugs should have priority in this space,” she says. “I hope the cannabis industry can keep the creative spirit alive and understand the value of art, social equity and inclusion.”

Emily Eizen, Cannabis Artist
Luna Lovebad lights a joint.

For other women hoping to break into the cannabis space, Emily Eizen says any point of entry is a start—whether that be as a budtender or brand ambassador. “There’s opportunity for growth once you get your foot in the door,” she says. But above all, she reminds women to stay true to themselves. 

“Find your niche, something you’re passionate about and promote yourself in that field,” she wisely advises. “Even if others may not listen at first, building a consistent message will help you get a following.”

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