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.
Historically speaking, the golf course has been a place for men. After all, it’s an easy excuse for leaving a chaotic household or the office for half the day. Not many sports provide four hours of uninterrupted play where one can develop close connections with friends and business colleagues. One of the most mentally challenging games, golf tests one’s ability to think strategically and get out of challenging situations.
Now, more women than ever are picking up the clubs and falling in love with the lifelong sport as they find peace on the course and embark on that endless search for the perfect swing. Female entrepreneurs are also realizing that playing a solid round of golf is a critical business tool to have in their back pocket. If you want to be successful in golf or in business, having a strong mental game is a must.
Recognizing that business and golf go hand-in-hand, Lemonhaze Executive Golf Classics bring together C-Suite executives in the cannabis space, so the industry’s most influential people can build meaningful relationships and make significant deals. These events are open to men and women, but Lemonhaze wants to ensure women feel equally empowered as they tee up. Their inaugural Executive Women’s Golf Classic, which took place February 20 at the Indian Wells Golf Resort in Palm Springs, CA, did just that. More than 60 women from around the US took to the course, including representatives from companies such as Boveda, E1011 Labs, CannaCoverage and Buckeye Relief.
“Let’s all break that grass ceiling and set the standard for how business should be done,” says Lemonhaze COO Penny Cook, who hosted the event.
The tournament welcomed women of all golfing skill levels. Attendees could choose to spend the day taking lessons and playing games with a pro while networking; playing for the trophy in the four-person scramble; or participating in the scramble with the help of a pro, which would surely land your team a few birdies, or even an eagle.
Sarah Falvo, who’s now spent six years in the cannabis industry, says her North Star has always been about uplifting women and providing them with the tools and resources to succeed, as well as facilitating connections that make sense. Falvo, who formerly ran the Women’s Inclusion Network at the Arcview Group, arrived in the California desert representing her own Ensemble Brands and showed up to deepen her community while strengthening existing ties in the cannabis industry.
“Being with your [golf] foursome for that long really creates a space for deeper connections and conversations that are beyond the exchange of a handshake,” Falvo says. “I love the aspect of having some sort of activity because it gets people’s guards down and allows you to have fun; and when you have fun with someone, it creates a different kind of connection.”
The Lemonhaze Executive Women’s Golf Classic marked Falvo’s first time playing in a golf tournament with anyone other than friends. A low-pressure way to get acquainted with the sport, she says the event helped her feel more prepared and confident for when she does enter a co-ed tournament, going toe-to-toe with many of the male decision makers in cannabis.
“Trying new things in a comfortable environment leads to women being able to feel OK being in those spaces alongside men, including on the golf course,” Falvo says. “I’m not the best golfer, so I appreciated trying it in a low-pressure environment with women who were understanding, and getting those one-on-one hours with women I didn’t know that well. It was a good primer to get me more interested in doing more golf events.”
Falvo, who has extensive experience helping female entrepreneurs raise money and coaches them on pitching their wares, says one of her biggest things she tells women in the cannabis industry is to ask for what they need: “Whether that’s money, help, a connection or guidance, just put yourself out there and ask.”
Lemonhaze Executive Golf Classics take place all over the US and are open to both male and female C-suite executives, VPs and Directors who are the leaders and decision makers from regional cannabis brands and MSOs. Attendee lists are curated so that players can make valuable relationships and impactful business deals. In the words of CEO Brian Yauger, “It’s a place where the industry can grow together.”
This story was originally published in issue 48 of the print edition of Cannabis Now. Read it now on the Cannabis Now iTunes app.
When the world’s most famous hip-hop star and successful businessman, actor and cannabis activist personally taps you to launch his highly anticipated new brand, chances are it’s because you’re the best. And make no mistake, Tiffany Chin is precisely that. Ask Snoop about his head of cannabis ventures at his new Death Row Cannabis brand.
Chin’s career took off in earnest more than a decade ago with an internship at Snoop’s entertainment management agency, Stampede, which was founded by fellow University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School grad Ted Chung. “People who graduate from my university usually go into banking or consulting; they don’t go to Los Angeles and pursue an entertainment career,” Chin says, who holds a B.S. in Economics from the same prestigious Ivy League institution. “My boss went to the same school, so for lack of a better term, you could call it ‘distant educational nepotism.’”
It was a bit of a gamble for both sides, but Chin quickly proved her business chops and moved up to the role of business development manager at Stampede. Her love of cannabis and its culture also played in her favor. “No one in the company had the business acumen and education I had while also smoking cannabis every day,” Chin says. “No one understood the culture and could keep up when it came to blunts, jays, vapes, edibles—all that stuff.”
Chin is the first to admit her hesitancy in accepting the role, as she didn’t want to be pigeonholed at the start of her career. Plus, cannabis was only legal for adult use in two states. “I didn’t really understand what the trajectory of this industry would look like,” Chin says. “Luckily for me, I stayed.”
Most recently, Chin, along with her team, including legendary west coast legacy cultivator AK and Snoop’s long-time producer, Shaggy, launched Death Row Cannabis. Chin says the move comes as a full-circle moment for Snoop, who in 2022 purchased the Death Row Records label—where he was first signed as a young artist. At the time, Chin was taking a hiatus from cannabis to become a mom and work with tech start-ups. Chin remembers Snoop telling her he’d purchased the Los Angeles-based record label, texting her to say, “It’s mine.”
While Chin has noticed more women stepping into influential roles since returning from her hiatus, she says she’s still not seeing enough women who are true decision makers, holding positions including legal counsel, marketing experts or operation consultants. Women, in general, are what I like to call ‘CPOs’ or the ‘chief purchasing officers’ of most households,” Chin says. According to multiple sources, women make 80 percent of household purchasing decisions on average. Chin says, in cannabis, it’s not quite as high—more like around 60 percent. Yet, when you look at the people who constitute the organizations, the retailers, the facilities and grows, the majority are men.
To some extent, Chin believes that gender bias still exists within the industry and says that ideally, there would be more female CEOs and presidents running businesses and creating value, as women are proven to be more effective in running businesses. “There’s a Harvard Business Review article called “Research: Adding Women to the C-Suite Changes How Companies Think” that states women run more efficient businesses, just as much as men; they’re more risk-seeking in terms of wanting to take actions that may or may not be proven to help their bottom line; and they also end up resulting in more socially responsible business as well,” Chin says.
When it comes to the future of cannabis, Chin wants to see more women in those high-power, decision-making roles—“not just ‘You’re our CMO and here’s a budget,’ but rather, ‘What’s the budget and how can I affect that change and position it in places where I think it will be most effective?” she says, adding that it often starts with having the confidence to speak up and stand up for yourself. “I’d love to see more women, not just near the top, but at the top, to really affect meaningful changes—not just for women, but for everybody.”
This story was originally published in issue 48 of the print edition of Cannabis Now. Read it now on the Cannabis Now iTunes app.
As one of the most profoundly accomplished female entrepreneurs in cannabis, Wanda James is simultaneously shattering the glass and grass ceilings. The founder and CEO of the Denver-based dispensary, Simply Pure, is blazing a trail for not only women of color, but for women in general.
James is the first legally licensed African American dispensary owner in the US. She attributes that to her strong work ethic; a willingness to trust her intuition; a readiness to pivot when necessary; and the influence of her “remarkable” father, who raised James and her brother alone.
“My dad used to always tell me, ‘If you’re ever walking down the street and something tells you to turn left, but you need to keep going straight, follow your gut: Turn left,’” James says. “He always told me not to let someone talk you out of not feeling that instinct.”
James learned to trust her gut and listen to her intuition—an ability that helped her form a strong sense of self and build a successful career as an adult. She says she never felt that growing up without a mother changed who she was or who she could become. Being part of a family without traditional gender roles helped form her expectations of the future: As she saw it, anything was possible.
After graduating from the Naval ROTC program as the first Black female in 1986, James admits she didn’t understand the significance of many of her accomplishments until years later. She found discipline and structure within the military, something James admits she needed at the time. So, James didn’t realize that it was uncommon for her to be the only Black woman in ROTC, or the only female officer or one of very few Black executives in corporate America. She says she didn’t realize she was America’s first Black dispensary owner either.
“I didn’t even know that until I think it was MSNBC that brought it up, because I didn’t know it was unusual,” she says. “The more I’m experiencing and looking back, I’m now saying, ‘Well, dang, I was the only woman. I was like, ‘Go me!’”
Her work as a Fortune 500 Executive, a small business owner and a leading advocate in the cannabis industry led James to work with government leaders including President Obama, Vice President Harris, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Barbara Lee and Colorado Governor Jared Polis. She says she focuses on social equity, justice and ending the War on Drugs. She ran for election to the University of Colorado Board of Regents representing District 1 and won in Colorado’s general election on November 8, 2022. With yet another achievement, James is a first-generation graduate of CU Boulder. Combined with the fact that there hasn’t been a Black woman on the Board of Regents since the 1980s, it’s another remarkable accolade in her career.
James admits that some of her life’s most significant decisions weren’t planned.
“When the universe presents something to you in a moment—whatever that is—your ‘spidey’ senses, your gut, all of a sudden, it all comes together and it’s like, that’s what you’re doing,” she says. “And so, I wish I could tell you—even with everything with cannabis, even with going to college and joining the military—all of those decisions were things that the universe presented me with at a time when that wasn’t what I was looking for. But it all said, ‘Say yes.’”
But the road hasn’t always been easy. James says it’s these tougher experiences—learning how to overcome hardships—that have provided her with many of the skills necessary to succeed. James made this clear while speaking to a political science class at CU Boulder. A student asked about her many career highlights, so she started running through her triumphs, but then, she suddenly stopped and said, “I need you to all understand that all of this happened because other things didn’t go right.”
Even in the competitive landscape that Denver dispensaries operate, she says her shop’s superpower is that they’ve remained small and have yet to take on any debt. Also, James says their ultimate success is because of the people behind the work.
“We’re like The Little Engine That Could,” she starts. “Nobody has been greedy. My investors have held on even when they don’t always get dividends. But we’ve all looked at it as if we’re almost at the point of legalization. It’s been the people who work there as well as what we believe about the plant. And it shows. We take time to explain things to customers; we’re not trying to rush them in and out. We’re doing the antithesis of what every consultant says you should be doing in a retail operation.”
When it comes to counseling women trying to break into the industry, James isn’t all sunshine and roses—not even close.
“Whenever I’m asked about advice I’d give to women about entering the cannabis industry, I’m always torn between wanting to give the uplifting answer that I know somebody in my position should deliver to folks,” she says. “It should be something like, ‘Hey, believe in your dreams, and yes, your cake can be on the shelf of every dispensary out there.’ But, sadly, that’s not the case at all. I’ve always been about entrepreneurism. I love being an entrepreneur. I’m wired that way. Not everybody is wired to be an entrepreneur.”
James emphasizes the importance of understanding what you’re getting yourself into. While some people may have their heart set on starting and growing a business, others may be better suited working alongside a team of passionate employees.
“There are incredible careers and high-paying jobs in the cannabis space,” she says. “If you’ve never run a business, if you don’t understand mass distribution, if you’re not looking at scaling your product line the same way Coca-Cola scales, then in that case, you’re in the wrong business. If you’re not looking to build that kind of business, sitting in front of a computer most days, having countless meetings with people you may not like very much and who don’t understand your passion and don’t speak your language, cannabis may not be your calling.”
Luckily for James, cannabis was the siren call she never knew she needed to answer. After a lifetime of groundbreaking firsts—in cannabis and in business—this dynamic force of nature is determined to keep following her gut and continue making her father proud.
This story was originally published in issue 48 of the print edition of Cannabis Now. Read it now on the Cannabis Now iTunes app.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
Recent trends and predictions estimate that legal adult-use sales in the US could gross upwards of $100 billion as soon as 2030. With those types of numbers in the pipeline, it’s easy to feel like California’s Prop 64 legalizing adult-use cannabis was light years ago. The documentary Lady Buds helps bring viewers back to their roots by highlighting the unstable period leading up to the adult-use legalization and 2017, the year after the significant Golden State vote took place. Director Chris J. Russo features six trailblazers in the exciting and uncertain times that helped shape the historic shift in policy.
The film offers a look back at the beginnings of what has evolved into an industry beyond some of our wildest dreams while honoring women who have become prominent figures in California’s growing cannabis scene. Although each person featured comes from completely different walks of life with varying paths that led to the cannabis industry, they all experienced the complicated barriers of entry to the adult-use market. From a second-generation cannabis farmer to a former Catholic school principal, what makes these stories special is the thread that runs through every single one—a deep determination, a tenacious spirit and an unwavering passion for a plant that undeniably changed their lives.
Risk is one of the driving themes throughout the movie. It’s a distinct and glaring actuality that brings an unyielding sense of unrest to Lady Buds. There are moments of hope, triumph and thrill that offer heartwarming levity. And with so much at stake, each woman’s willingness to put all they have on the line is nothing short of inspiring. Even with local and federal laws changing at neck-break speeds, they’re still risking their freedom. These leaders aren’t just coming out of the shadows to face unfamiliar regulations and complicated legislation; they’re confronting the nail-biting reality of jeopardizing their livelihood and facing big questions about whether they’re willing to go to jail and lose everything, simply for what they believe in. There’s much to consider, but for these changemakers, the only way is forward.
If you like being shown the different pieces that hold the cannabis industry together, this documentary will do the job. It’s compelling, provocative and educational—a terrific trifecta. Even if you aren’t familiar with all of the nuts and bolts of legalization, the director’s storytelling lens, along with the engaging stories, will help pull you into the narrative.
Russo succeeds in shifting the perspective away from the typical bro culture associated with cannabis by shining the spotlight on some fearless female pioneers in the industry. Viewers are invited to weather the transition, share the tears and brave their worst fears in this honest delve into what it looks like to never give up.
This story was originally published in issue 44 of the print edition of Cannabis Now.
International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global celebration of women’s cultural, social, political and economic achievements. And as it happens to fall in March, which is also Women’s History Month, the love is compounded. The theme for IWD 2023 is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” which, according to the United Nations, “recognizes and celebrates the women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education.” Additionally, the theme of IWD 2023 offers an opportunity to examine how growing economic and social disparities are impacted by the digital gender gap and spotlight the importance of protecting the rights of women and girls in the digital realm.
Since the dawn of the digital age in the mid-20th century, women have made untold unsung contributions to the development of our increasingly digital world. Grace Hopper was an esteemed computer scientist and one of the first computer programmers to work on the general-purpose electromechanical computer, Harvard Mark I; Radia Perlman, nicknamed the “Mother of the Internet” designed the algorithm behind the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) and was instrumental in making today’s internet possible; Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician whose trajectory analysis was crucial to the success of the first-ever US space flight.
While women make up only 22% of artificial intelligence workers globally, digital technology is creating new opportunities for the global emancipation of women, girls and other marginalized groups, according to the United Nations. The digital age offers an unparalleled chance to eradicate all types of inequity and inequality, from gender-responsive digital learning to tech-facilitated sexual and reproductive healthcare.
Women in Weed
In the cannabis industry, women hold significant roles as entrepreneurs, breeders, producers, marketers, researchers and more. Women have also developed innovative technological solutions and programs to help move the sector forward. However, despite the progress being made, there’s still work to be done to achieve gender parity in the industry. According to the report “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the Cannabis Industry” by MJBizDaily, both cannabis company ownership and the percentage of women in executive-level roles have both shown stagnant growth from 2020-21, with both categories sitting around 1-2%.
The importance of showcasing and supporting women in historically male-dominated industries cannot be understated. According to psychologist Penelope Lockwood, women need to see female role models more than men need to see male role models.
“Outstanding women can function as inspirational examples of success, illustrating the kinds of achievements that are possible for women around them, says Lockwood. “They demonstrate that it’s possible to overcome traditional gender barriers, indicating to other women that high levels of success are indeed attainable.”
To celebrate our sinsemilla sisters, three women who are challenging gender bias and inequality share their thoughts on the intersect of women, cannabis and technology.
Founder, PayRio, Inc.
PayRio is a female-founded payments company that offers specialized payment solutions in the CBD, high-risk and health and wellness sectors. Founder and self-described “highly driven, long-term payments geek” Aubrey Amatelli has a background in payment processing, honing her craft at corporate giants including JP Morgan.
“80% of our business directly supports dispensary growth through card payments,” Amatelli says. “It’s our mission to normalize payments in the cannabis industry and we’re off to a great start.”
Amatelli says she has a lot of respect for cannabis and regularly uses the plant therapeutically. She says that her “love for the plant” led her to found PayRio with the goal to “bring feminine energy to the technology payments space, in an industry bursting at the seams with potential feminine power” and her goal is to “help that feminine power breakthrough and thrive.”
“The cannabis flower we all love and support comes from the female plant, which is restorative and receptive by nature; this same energy has a significant impact on technology,” says Amatelli. “Women in tech are also tied directly to increased revenue and innovation. Women contribute superior problem-solving and help close the skills gap. As the relationship between women, cannabis and tech grows, so will the cannabis industry—a common mission for us all.”
Amatelli believes that to positively impact gender equality in cannabis, it’s important to “spread the love and support for women-owned cannabis businesses.” Following women-owned businesses and vendors on social media platforms and purchasing products from their companies is a great way to show your support. But, she says, one of the most beneficial ways to impact gender equality in cannabis is to hire women and promote them from within. “Create flexible job requisitions and part-time roles that are conducive to women with children,” she says. “We can do this!”
Founder & CEO, Willow Industries
Willow Industries is the industry leader in cannabis kill step and post-harvest microbial decontamination technology using organic, ozone-based technology that reduces or eliminates contaminants from cannabis while protecting the plant’s medicinal properties. The Denver-based company has been named one of Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing private companies in America two years in a row and was recognized in the top 50 on the 2022 Financial Times’ list of The Americas’ fastest-growing companies. Fueled by her passion for innovation and dedication to health, founder Jill Ellsworth has made a career of creating solutions for better living.
For years, cannabis has helped Ellsworth “level out the emotional swings of being a CEO, without feeding into it, unlike alcohol.” When she needs to feel “Zen” but still function, Ellsworth reaches for low-level THC products.
Ellsworth founded Willow in 2015 and says back then, there were “very few women in the industry representing technology—especially hardware.” But she believes that this gave her a “competitive advantage” at the time.
“As time moved on, it has been really encouraging to see more women step into this industry as leaders and founders of tech companies and I know we will see less of a gender disparity as the industry matures,” Ellsworth says. “However, it takes women stepping into their light and being confident they can permeate a male-dominated industry. No one is going to give you that confidence. Have the strength and fortitude to put yourself out there and if that confidence radiates, people will follow.”
Ellsworth says she believes to see more progress in overcoming gender bias, women “need to continue championing for themselves” and that “no one will see your great accomplishments if you don’t promote yourself. Women-founded companies only exist if women seize the opportunity and continually persevere. Don’t give up and don’t give in. If you have a great idea and there is a product/market fit, make it happen,” Ellsworth says.
Ellsworth says we’ll continue to see a “dynamic shift” as more companies bring women into leadership roles. “Gone are the days when only white men make up executive suites and board rooms,” she says. “I feel confident that companies will start prioritizing women candidates for executive roles, so put yourself out there.”
Principal and CEO, Cryo Cure
Cryo Cure is changing traditional cannabis drying and curing techniques. Revolutionary freeze-dried technology removes the water content from harvested flower to preserve fragile trichomes and terpene potency at an optimal moisture level. The system dries and cures cannabis in as little as 13 hours, drastically cutting processing time from weeks to days. Before founding Cryo Cure, founder Tracee McAfee spent three decades building multi-million-dollar brands in the consumer products sector. McAfee’s diverse business background across new market sectors offers her a unique perspective to build and thrive in the cannabis industry.
“Cannabis doesn’t care about your gender and it shouldn’t matter to others, either,” McAfee says, who “adores all aspects of the cannabis plant” and microdoses flower to treat her PTSD and overall well-being.
McAfee says that she has been “very fortunate not to have experienced gender or age discrimination” in the cannabis industry. It saddens her when she “hears about other women that have had bad experiences in our space.” She acknowledges the hard-working women who are making big waves in this space and believes that if you share your “passion, experience and research with others and they see know what you’re talking about, respect comes no matter your gender.”
McAfee recommends using sensitivity and awareness because some women entering this space “may have been through a rough time in their past careers. Give everyone the fresh start and respect they deserve.”
Above all else, McAfee says she loves paving the way for other women to enter this exciting industry. “To be a tech leader—and in cannabis—is an honor I carry proudly,” she says.
I love it when a new product comes along that’s been designed with the core function to make life better, easier and cleaner. A product that makes me say, “Wow, I need that.” The truly revolutionary Ciro bong cleaner is one such item. The first-of-its-kind countertop appliance is the healthiest, most sustainable way to clean your pipes, bongs, grinder and trimming scissors by removing all the sticky resin using sonic waves—and in under 15 minutes without harmful and expensive chemicals.
Derivative of the Latin word for circle, the Ciro glass cleaner is the brainchild of two Emerald Triangle-based women, Laura Costa and Cara Cordoni.
“The Ciro comes from the heart of Humboldt County,” Costa says. “In addition to being great farmers, we’re also engineers, architects and artists.”
How the Ciro Works
By harnessing industrial ultrasonic cleaning technology, the Ciro cleans the dirtiest bongs, pipes and other cannabis accessories and apparatus such as scissors and metal grinders. And it does so without using any nasty chemicals in a few minutes.
According to Costa, the sonic energy creates “cavitation,” tiny bubbles that explode against the resin, blasting it off the surface material and eliminating the need for solvents or other chemicals.
The device is unique because the product’s design doesn’t require the bong to be submerged. Instead, it only needs to be filled with water. The Ciro’s six-inch base fits most bongs and if you want to clean dirty pipes, grinders or other accessories, simply pop them in a glass of water and place it in the Ciro. Adding a few drops of biodegradable dishwashing liquid emulsifies the resin, making for easy cleanup.
“The cannabis industry is loaded with waste,” Costa says. “One Ciro is about the same cost as about a dozen bottles of cleaner that you’ll never have to buy again. We’re very proud that we created something that eliminates a lot of single-use plastic and toxic chemicals from the environment.”
The Full Flavor: Getting the full taste of the terpene profiles is one of the highlights of smoking cannabis. If you’re using a dirty bong containing stagnant bong water, you’re doing yourself and the flower a disservice. “You wouldn’t drink wine from a dirty glass,” Cordoni says. “So why would you smoke weed from a dirty bong?”
Reduced Respiratory Risks: Smoking out of dirty bongs and pipes isn’t just bad for the taste of your flower; it potentially poses health risks, too. Gross stagnant bong water is a haven for bacteria and other microbes that latch onto the gas and resin found inside your bong. Resin-encrusted bongs are a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and pathogens. Smoking with them can lead to illnesses like strep throat and pneumonia.
Easy Cleanup: Cleaning bongs can be complicated and time-consuming, not to mention damn near impossible if you have dexterity issues. The sleek hands-free design of the Ciro makes it super easy to use, especially for patients and disabled users who often struggle to maintain the level of cleanliness that they deserve with traditional methods.
Environmentally Conscious Engineering: As well as eliminating toxic chemicals and reducing the need for single-use plastic, the Ciro is also engineered for performance and durability and includes a lifetime warranty. Costa and Cordoni developed a circular business model that will repair or reclaim products at end-of-life.
Necessity and Innovation
The Ciro was born out of a two-fold need: a way to clean cannabis smoking apparatus and support her family as they worked through farming bureaucracy, Costa says.
“Many small farmers in the Emerald Triangle didn’t make it through the oppressive red tape and permitting costs of legalization after Prop 64,” Costa says. “Many farmers and their families had to pivot and find other ways to provide for their families.”
Costa is a skilled electrical engineer who spent part of her 20s rewiring airports in the South Pacific. She’s married to a legacy farmer and has spent years overseeing trim crews, tinkering with inventive ways to clean resinous apparatus. Costa built the first Ciro prototype using a thrift store cake pan as Exhibit A to her resourcefulness.
Cordoni is a San Francisco native and accomplished business builder, managing and coaching teams at various Fortune 500 companies and cannabis startups. Her passion for nurturing cradle-to-cradle product development extends into developing profitable businesses that prioritize protecting people and the environment.
“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished with Ciro,” Costa says. “We have the potential to provide a less wasteful and healthier cleaning and consumption experience for the cannabis community.”
Ciro has launched for pre-sale on Indiegogo. A pledge of $185 reserves one Ciro + accessories at 26% off the retail price of $250. Multiple packs are available for dispensaries at a more generous discount. To see Ciro in action, or to pre-purchase a unit, visit @ciro_humboldt.
Cannabis legalization is leading to more experimentation around the ways we consume cannabis. With so many options out there (good and bad), it’s refreshing to know some companies truly care—companies that are dedicated to creating the healthiest product possible. TribeTokes is one such company.
Founded in 2017 by CEO Degelis Tufts Pilla and CMO Kymberly Byrnes, the health-focused brand creates Delta-8 THC products for people seeking a relaxing experience that feels less “heady.” Pilla and Byrnes launched the company out of their own desire for a vapable cannabis product that didn’t irritate the way flower smoke often can, without sacrificing what they love about cannabis flower.
No Frills or Fillers
Since Colorado legalized cannabis back in 2012, it seems like we went from special brownies being somewhat of a kitchen science fair, to well-labeled gummies that could leave you feeling anxious if you ate more than half. However, even well-labeled packages can be misleading if the cooks aren’t properly testing the product with each batch from harvest to the moment it’s packaged and sent out.
All the ladies at TribeTokes (and COO Greg Pilla, Degelis’ husband) watched as many vapes contained harmful materials, including heavy metals, Vitamin E acetate, fillers and other additives not intended for smoking. They’ve been working closely with farmers and chemists alike to put out a healthy array of CBD and Delta-8 THC products without any of the unnecessary additives. All laboratory analysis for TribeTokes products are available on their website under the About Us tab.
“To us, cannabis is a wellness category, so there is no place for unhealthy fillers in vapes, pesticides in flower, high fructose corn syrup in edibles, or artificial fragrances in topicals,” Pilla told Cannabis Now. “We started with clean vaping because it was such an obvious problem to tackle in the industry.”
After taking clean vapes, CBD and Delta-8 into their own hands about five years ago, TribeTokes was pushing for the development of the cleanest product they could bring to tokers like you. It wasn’t until two years later that we witnessed the problems that come with adding fillers and unconventional extraction methods. In 2019 the Evali outbreak was recognized by the CDC as they started investigating the link to electronic cigarettes and vape-associated lung injuries. They found a link to Vitamin E acetate fillers that were cheap ways to extend the shelf life of THC vapes.
At this time, Rolling Stone and Forbes took notice of the ladies at TribeTokes for using natural ingredients. To extend the shelf life of their vapes, serums and gummies TribeTokes instead uses terpenes, the compounds found in cannabis that are responsible for creating the variety in taste and smell. Using these methods doesn’t just add to the health benefits, but also to the overall quality of TribeTokes products.
TribeTokes is dedicated to a customer experience that is reflected by transparency in their hard work. The company shows you that you’ll be in safe hands using their CBD or Delta-8 THC products and you will likely experience the same feelings of relaxation and happiness that you look for when consuming cannabis. And as the company’s products are derived from hemp, you can easily buy them online.
CBD of All Kinds
The main driver of TribeTokes has been CBD in all shapes and sizes—including Delta-8 THC. Often referred to as “diet weed,” Delta-8 THC is growing in popularity, partly because it’s actually derived from CBD and its more well-known cousin, Delta-9 THC. Delta-8 has many of the same effects as Delta-9, but it’s intrinsically less strong. Delta-9 products will soon be available to TribeTokes fans in Massachusetts.
With so many growers aiming for the strongest product, it seems fewer are focused on the complete experience of the consumer. With the whole TribeTokes team working behind clean Delta-8 usage, you can feel great knowing the extraction process takes enough safe steps to ensure you’ll be satisfied.
Women Behind The Weed
Since the launch of their business, Pilla and Byrnes have had premium, healthy marijuana on their minds. After meeting at an NYC Women Grow event, both ladies realized they were heading down the same path of making clean CBD products for a tribe of people that’s had enough of the risks that come with using fillers and pesticides in weed products. Together, Byrnes, Degelis Pilla and Greg Pilla have combined their superpowers in fitness, CBD, business and plant-based medicine to create the tribe they sought to build early on.
A longtime plant medicine enthusiast, Pilla has been the CFA and CEO since the company took off in 2017. Her experience working as COO of several other start-ups provided her with the wherewithal to drive TribeTokes to the next level of clean plant-based products.
In addition to her role as CMO at TribeTokes, Byrnes also serves on the advisory board for The Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition and is a longtime advocate for clean cannabis and psilocybin use. A former High Times judge, it’s clear Byrnes knows her stuff when it comes to quality.
TribeTokes’ Commitment to Patient Wellbeing
Alongside the distinguished team running the show at TribeTokes, you’ll find Dr. Lynn Parodneck, who serves as the brand’s medical advisor. She brings a trustworthy 20 years of medical marijuana experience and currently serves over 500 current patients. Parodneck has been a trusted source for NY Daily News, NPR, Mashable, and Good Housekeeping and she continues to spread awareness on how medical marijuana can be a safe alternative to many other potentially risky prescription medications.
Pilla and Byrnes first met Dr. Parodneck at various cannabis community events in New York, including Women Grow and Cannagather.
“We hit it off on a personal level, but also respected how she has been helping patients in need to get their medical cards way before it was mainstream,” Pilla said.
Pilla and Byrnes invited Dr. Parodneck to be a medical advisor to formalize their relationship. From there, they started a “Pot Luck” program for those who are very sick, Veterans and/or below the poverty level and need CBD. Dr. Parodneck provides a consultation screening and TribeTokes donates and ships $500+ worth of products. Patients also have access to a 50% off code for life to use on the site.
Nothing shows the deep passion and compassion of TribeTokes like having Dr. Lynn Parodneck join the team of women committed to powering healthy CBD-derived products. Since the Compassionate Care Act of New York passed, Dr. Parodneck has been helping patients understand how the body interacts with CBD, THC and other organic substances. To serve those who are experiencing a green card-qualifying medical condition, she’s been using TribeTokes as a brand partner. The benefit of that to many of us is that CBD, and in many states Delta-8, is not restricted at all. This means you can order most of TribeTokes products directly to your door.
Large groups of cannabis companies swooped in while legalization was being enacted across the US. Some saw an opportunity for profit, while others looked to progress the world of weed, driving the community as a whole. For years, TribeTokes and its founders have been a large part of this community as they continue to drive innovation forward in the clean-vaping world. Combined with years of business experience, TribeTokes is a company with the knowledge to create premium products worth what it costs.
If you want to join the Tribe today, readers of Cannabis Now can get 20% off your first order with code TRIBE20 when you checkout tribetokes.com.