- Jennifer Betz
How Have Women Made a Difference in Cannabis?
Missouri Marijuana Card Celebrates Women's History Month by Celebrating Influential Women in Cannabis
Women are working to make a difference in cannabis every single day. However, when we think of Women’s History Month, most of us think of women like First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who used her position of power to fight for women’s rights in the workplace. Or of Suffragist Susan B. Anthony, who helped lead the charge for a woman’s right to vote.
Here at Missouri Marijuana Card, we think it’s just as important to celebrate the women who are making history right now as it is to celebrate the path they have forged for us since the beginning of time.
That’s why we are taking this opportunity to recognize the ways that women are winning in cannabis, influencing the laws that protect people who use marijuana, and changing the world with plant medicine.
If you benefit from medical marijuana in Missouri, it is at least in part thanks to women all over the United States who speak up and speak out, making sure we have laws that protect us and products that heal us.
Happy Women’s History Month, from all of us at Missouri Marijuana Card to women everywhere!
Women in the Workforce, Then and Now
To really appreciate the successes of women pioneering the cannabis industry, we have to take a quick look back to see how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.
Just 100 years ago, women won the right to vote in Federal and local elections. Until as recently as 1988, it was legal for banks to discriminate against women for business loans. Even today, women start their businesses with half the capital of men, and only 4% of the total money that banks give out in commercial loans.
The Federal Government still generally fails to meet its goal of awarding 5% of its contracts to women-owned businesses, and women only held 20% of the board seats within Fortune 500 companies in 2016 despite making up more than 58% of the total civilian labor force in the US.
Women Represent in Cannabis
Cannabis has seen a lot of back-and-forth regarding representation of women. However, the tide is turning again. Women are making their voices heard from the business side of things, holding 37% of the total executive-level positions in the market.
They are also getting noticed on the activism front. They command the attention of male and female politicians through their focus on the way marijuana laws affect families and local communities.
If you are a woman interested in getting involved in cannabis, or if you are just looking for some butt-kicking inspiration for Women’s History Month, sit back, enjoy an edible or a pre-roll from your local Missouri dispensary, and check out these influential women in cannabis. There may even be a name or two you recognize!
Mary Jane Rathbun - The OG Medical Marijuana Activist
Mary Jane Rathbun, aka Brownie Mary, gave pot brownies to AIDS patients in San Francisco General Hospital in the 1980s, and her defiance of the law helped move key California medical marijuana legislation forward.
Rathbun got her start making ends meet by selling the laced brownies on the side when she worked as a server at IHOP in the 1970s. By the time she was arrested for the first time, she had gotten so big that she was making 50 dozen cannabis brownies a day, advertising her baked goods on billboards as “magically delicious.” She was arrested again in 1982 while taking a bag full of brownies to a friend with cancer.
After her release, she started volunteering on the AIDS floor at San Francisco General where she brought comfort to patients with her special brownies. By 1986, she was crowned volunteer of the year! She continued her distribution, helping patients through pain and nausea, bringing welcome relief.
Rathbun was arrested again in 1992, and the court was prepared to throw the book at her. Except Rathbun made sure the trial was very public, and she was a frail woman in her 70s by then. The courts tried to give her a slap on the wrist and a fine in exchange for a guilty plea, but she insisted on taking the case to trial.
The optics were so bad that the case was eventually dismissed. Rathbun walked free, and her work laid the foundation for medical legalization that would follow in California just a few years later.
Sharon Ravert - Peachtree NORML Executive Director
Sharon Ravert got involved in cannabis activism more than a decade ago when her daughter was arrested for having a gram and a half of marijuana in Georgia. “They came in with the SWAT Team and the sheriff. Searched the house for several hours, found 1.5 grams. And we were looking at a misdemeanor, two felonies, and 26 years in prison.”
That’s when Ravert said enough was enough. She got involved in helping families that were in trouble with the law over marijuana charges, founded the Peachtree chapter of NORML, and even ran for public office in 2020.
Ravert recognizes that there is plenty of stigma surrounding women in the South and cannabis, but she says that politicians have been unexpectedly open to what she has to say.
She told Missouri Marijuana Card that, “When women step up, and they start talking about this, it gives them [politicians] a different perspective on it. I was a mother of two girls. It gives me a sort of moral high ground where I can say, ‘What about the children?’”
Ravert says one big difference in the way women approach legalization issues is that they are focusing on the harms of prohibition to communities, and how prohibition damages families. She believes this is of far greater interest to constituents than how much money can be made when cannabis corporations come to town, so it gives legislators a reason to listen.
Dr. Chanda Macias - Louisiana Cannabis Queen
In 2020, Dr. Maicias told Greentrepreneur, “Do you know every time I'm knocked down and get back up I go higher. It's my bounce back muscle.” That attitude has certainly contributed to her success, as she mowed the “grass ceiling” down over the course of her career.
Crowned Queen Zulu of Mardi Gras 2020, Dr. Macias is one of the busiest women in cannabis. She is a renowned biomedical research scientist, and she is the first black woman to own a multi-state cannabis company.
Her company, Ilera Holistic Healthcare, is one of only two medical marijuana growers and producers with authorization to operate in our neighbor to the South’s medical marijuana program. They are partnered with Southern University, a historically black university, to produce medical marijuana and CBD products for people all over the state of Louisiana.
Kyra Reed - Bringing Women in Cannabis Businesses Together
Kyra Reed has been at the forefront of creating spaces for women in cannabis to network and support each other as the industry grows. She is the founder of Women Empowered in Cannabis, one of the largest networking groups in the country.
WEiC’s Facebook group alone has more than seven thousand members, and the organization has a robust array of sponsors—including some of the most well-known marijuana and medical marijuana brands in the industry.
Reed also co-founded Haus of Jane and the Lady Jane Society, two more organizations meant to supply women with resources, partnership, and fun events that bring women in cannabis together.
When women support other women, they lift each other up and increase the chances of success for everyone involved. That’s exactly what Reed is doing with the networking organizations she has created, and it’s probably why she was named one of the “100 Most Important Women in Weed” two years in a row by the Green Market Report.
How Can Women Get Involved in the Cannabis Movement?
As a woman, your voice is incredibly important in the cannabis movement right now. Speaking up will help women everywhere feel empowered to share their stories as well.
When more people tell their stories of how cannabis helped them feel their best, treating chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD, cancer-related symptoms and more, the stigma will begin to ease. And when talking about marijuana—medical or otherwise—becomes normalized, then doors will open for people to access the treatment they need.
Starting a conversation about marijuana is the first step toward social justice and equitable access to vital plant medicines that allow people to find relief in a safe, natural way.
Read these words of wisdom from successful women in cannabis for inspiration in your own journey, get involved in your local NORML chapter, and speak out loud and proud if you have a Missouri medical marijuana card.
Join Women All Over Missouri and Get Your Marijuana Card Today!
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