Celebrating the Women of Weed: International Women's Day 2023
Celebrating the Women of Weed: International Women's Day 2023
It all began in New York City on March 8, 1857, when female garment workers took to the streets to protest against low wages and poor working conditions. The protestors were met with violence but the movement continued and resulted in the first union of female workers in North America. This day, known as International Women's Day, is now celebrated around the world and has grown to include the recognition of women's achievements and contributions to our societies.
Women have been integral in the cannabis movement for nearly a century, yet their accomplishments have not always been recognized. From the fields of British Columbia's Lillooet Valley to the boardrooms of the burgeoning cannabis industry, female entrepreneurs and businesswomen are playing an increasingly influential role in Canada's cannabis sector. For this reason, International Women's Day is a fitting time to recognize the women in weed who are making waves across Canada.
The theme of this year's International Women's Day is “Embrace Equity”, and that's exactly what female cannabis entrepreneurs have been doing. From creating their own businesses to advocating for policies that benefit the industry as a whole, women are changing the face of Canadian cannabis and paving the way for future generations to follow. We asked a few of these trailblazers what Embrace Equity means to them and why they think it's important in the cannabis industry.
Brishna Kamal, Earthwolf Farms
Born in Afghanistan and raised in Canada since she was 14, Brishna is a neuroscientist by trade and a cannabis entrepreneur at heart. She is the founder and CEO of Earthwolf Farms, an innovative, sustainable cannabis farm located in the Lillooet Valley. Earthwolf grows and produces high-quality cannabis solventless products that are renowned for their incredible terpene profiles. Brishna is also a passionate advocate for small, sustainable cannabis farms and is committed to creating an inclusive and equitable industry.
"Equity is inclusion and acknowledging the importance of socioeconomic status of an individual when creating policies that affect the general population. Equity in workplace is to tailor approaches or processes that provide the same opportunities to all those in the group regardless of sex. Practicing equity in daily life is a lot more challenging than most think, as the lives of the folks around us are constantly changing.
As a first generation immigrant who came to Canada at the age of 14, working in a nascent industry like cannabis, I am grateful for many leaders, professors and colleagues who have mentored me, taught me analytical skills and encourage me to practice equity in my professional career. In professional industries such as business, gender parity is too great compared to a field like the sciences.
As a business women whose transitioned from the sciences, I sense the gender parity at every business meeting and notice different leadership practices from different folks. Women are underrepresented in business leadership roles resulting in less gender diversity and therefore less diversity in approaches, practices, processes and policies. Women in leadership roles bring breadth of perspective that may be missing in their work culture."
Lisa and Andrea, Hazy Camper
The two female entrepreneurs behind Hazy Camper, Lisa and Andrea, are true trailblazers. After both were diagnosed with breast cancer, the pair turned to cannabis for relief. Inspired by their experiences with medical cannabis, they created Hazy Camper, an edibles lifestyle brand that is making waves in the Canadian cannabis industry for its delicious and innovative products. Lisa and Andrea dared to dream, and now they are inspiring others to do the same.
"We need to celebrate the achievements and milestones that women make in any industry. It is essential to lean on other women in legal cannabis because it is still new and if we can lift one another up then it only helps each other and the industry. With the regulations, reports and taxes, it can be very daunting and overwhelming and if we can provide a support network, then we can all share in each others' successes.
In our experience, we could not have gotten this far in legal cannabis without the men in our lives. They have been a tremendous support from helping to rebuild the facility to marketing. As women, it's important to make our mark but it's also important to acknowledge the humans behind our worth, this includes our husbands and co-workers.
It truly takes a village and if we had more compassion and kindness for humankind, no matter their gender, socio-economic background, the colour of our skin or religious beliefs the world would be a better place."
Lisa Campbell, Mercari Agency
This OG cannabis entrepreneur is the founder and CEO of Mercari Agency, a cannabis-focused sales and marketing firm. Lisa is a stalwart of the Canadian cannabis industry and has been a driving force behind some of the industry's most successful brands. As the founder of Women Grow Toronto, Lisa is committed to increasing the representation of women in the industry and creating equal opportunities for everyone. With her extensive knowledge and experience, she is creating a more equitable cannabis landscape for all.
"I think the cannabis industry needs to give back to the communities impacted most by the war on drugs. It’s important to foster diversity, and make sure the cannabis industry is inclusive and reflects the needs of diverse cannabis consumers."
Rosy Mondin, Cannaworld Ventures
For those familiar with the medical cannabis sector, Rosy's name is synonymous with success. With over two decades of legal and entrepreneurial experience, Rosy has successfully launched and managed start-ups and publicly-traded companies. As director at Cannaworld Ventures, Rosy is a passionate advocate for craft micro-cultivators and has made it her mission to help them succeed in an increasingly competitive industry. She previously served as the Executive Director and co-founder of Cannabis Trade Alliance Canada, one of the leading advocacy organizations for the cannabis industry in Canada.
"On this International Women's Day, it is crucial to acknowledge the strides we have made towards breaking down barriers in the Canadian cannabis industry; however, there is still much work to be done.
This years’ IWD theme #EmbraceEquity means creating a Canadian cannabis industry that is welcoming and supportive to all individuals who wish to participate: where diversity and inclusion can flourish, gender stereotypes and discrimination can be overcome, and bias is replaced with appreciation for the unique strengths each individual brings to the table.
As our Canadian cannabis industry continues to grow and mature, we can and must #EmbraceEquity in all its forms. By doing so, we will unlock the full potential of our vibrant and dynamic industry, driving innovation, sustainability, and advancing social and economic progress that benefits all Canadians. By embracing equity, we can achieve equality in our Canadian cannabis industry."
Sandra Colasanti, Remo Brands
As a mother, grandmother and founder of Remo Brands, Sandra is a true powerhouse. Together with her husband, Remo "Urban Remo" Colasanti, the pair have created an international cannabis empire with their line of vegan nutrients for cannabis plants that are sold in 32 countries. She has worked tirelessly to promote micro-cultivators in Canada, advocating for the rights of small-scale growers.
"As a woman who has been in the cannabis industry for most of my life, I have seen first-hand how male-dominated it has been - at least in terms of the positions of power. However, women have always been in the cannabis industry - we just didn't see them. They were the ones working in the garden, trimming weed, packaging, and making pennies and getting none of the glory.
As we approached legalization, I have been excited to see more and more women and people of colour enter the industry in prominent positions - but unsurprisingly it is still dominated by white men. Embracing equity in the cannabis industry is so important because having a diverse group of people leads to greater innovation and creativity. Like anything else in life, nothing progresses if you just have the same ideas over and over. Women have made incredible strides in the cannabis industry, but we still have work to do. We need to challenge stereotypes, support and uplift each other, and keep working towards equity because that can only make this industry better."
Kayla Mann, Cake & Caviar
This young entrepreneur has worked with some of the top names in Canadian cannabis and is already making a name for herself. She is the Chief Financial & Revenue Officer at Habitat Life (Cake & Caviar), a company revolutionizing agriculture with an innovative approach to vertical growing and aquaponics. Kayla sits on the board of the BC Craft Farmer's Co-op and is passionate about creating an equitable and inclusive cannabis industry.
"Embrace Equity to me means embracing everyone for exactly what they offer and who they are as people. Going beyond the conditioned mind to look tactfully and heartily at our people and celebrate them for their energy and what they bring to the workplace. We can all learn from each other and this is how I feel we should approach our industry."
Trina Fraser, Brazeau Seller Law
A lawyer and businesswoman, Trina is a leader in the Canadian cannabis industry. With more than two decades of experience in law, she heads the Canna Law Group at Brazeau Seller Law, one of the leading cannabis law firms in Canada. Her visionary approach to law has made her a sought-after expert in the industry and she is well respected for her insight and expertise. Trina serves on the board of Medical Cannabis Canada (MCC) and her work is inspiring a new generation of women in cannabis.
"To me, Embrace Equity means continuing to advocate for a regulatory framework that values and promotes equity and diversity in all areas of the industry, creating meaningful opportunities for everyone who wants to grow, produce and sell this plant. This is critically important for the cannabis industry in particular since we are building this industry on the backs of those who suffered as a result of the century-long criminalization of cannabis (which was rooted in inequity).
Access to capital, over-taxation, and over-regulation are challenges for everyone, but have the disproportionate effect of keeping women, BIPOC and members of other disadvantaged groups from rising to positions of control within cannabis companies."
Jen Myers, Zelca
As the CEO and founder of Zelca Ltd, a microprocessor and research license holder located in Calgary, Alberta, Jen is one of the few women to have their own LPs in Canada. As an accomplished artist, Jen transitioned her passion for creating into the edible cannabis space. Zelca's flagship brand, Manna, is focused on creating products that are sustainable, mindful, and accessible while reframing what edible cannabis means to today's consumer. The mission at Zelca is to foster creativity while also giving back to the community and supporting the Canadian cannabis industry, serving as an incubator and launchpad for other cultivators, brands, and creatives.
"As a founder and leader in Cannabis, I envision a day when we can all be celebrated for our efforts in forging a strong foundation for legal weed. I want to be a part of a community that celebrates the successes and struggles of those who are blazing the trail for the legal cannabis industry. I want to be a part of a movement that is centred around inclusion, respect, and collaboration. I believe that every individual's contribution is valuable and should be celebrated."
Andrea Dobbs, Village Bloomery
As the co-owner of award-winning Village Bloomery in Vancouver, Andrea is a leader in the cannabis sector. She is a passionate advocate for cannabis education and is dedicated to making the industry more accessible and equitable. As the past chairperson for Women's Grow Vancouver, Andrea has been at the forefront of advocating for gender parity in the cannabis industry. Her experience and leadership have served as a model for other women looking to break into the cannabis sector.
"For me embracing equity means to intentionally and actively work towards creating a more balanced and fair society. We do this by making sure that everyone has access to the same opportunities, resources, & rights, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, cultural expression, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, or any other characteristic that might lead to discrimination! How's that for a mouthful!
In order to fully embrace equity we'll need to acknowledge and address the historical & systemic structures that have prevented some individuals from participating fully, and work towards opening up the space for those who want to take part.
We can do this by advocating for policies and practices that promote equity, we can listen to and amplify the voices of folks who are making noise, and we can work on educating ourselves and others about the ways in which privilege and oppression operate in society.
In the cannabis space, we need to see a much broader base of participants with positions of power. Indigenous, Black, South Asian and East Asian people in positions of power are few and far between. Openly queer folk and self-identified females in positions of power are even less so.
The reason I'm engaged in the Cannabis space in the first place is that I feel like we can make the world a better place by tapping into the heart-centred energy we can access through the plant. If this is going to happen we need more diversity."
Abi Roach, Cannabiz OG
Long before there was a legal cannabis industry in Canada, Abi Roach was advocating for it. A passionate activist and entrepreneur, Abi was the founder of HotBox Cafe, Toronto's first cannabis lounge. Providing a safe space for Canadians to enjoy cannabis, HotBox was an important part of the conversation leading up to legalization. Abi has continued her service to cannabis consumers as a public servant with the Ontario Cannabis Store, serving as manager of Product Initiatives, as well as the senior category manager for various key categories.
"The female plant is the foundation of all things cannabis, from culture to product. Yet for the most part, women did not participate in the illegal market prior to legalization due to social reasons and have had to battle their way through corporate legal cannabis.
We are now at a key fluctuation point for women in the cannabis industry. Women have chosen to join the cannabis industry in droves, bringing so many diverse skills, experiences and points of view to an industry in desperate need of differentiation. It is time we see brilliant persons in leadership positions, regardless of their sex."
A force of inspiration
The women of Canada’s cannabis industry are inspiring, driven individuals who are leading the way for a more diverse and equitable future. They have overcome obstacles to create successful businesses and have become catalysts for positive change in the sector. On International Women's Day, we honour these incredible women in weed and celebrate their invaluable contributions to the Canadian cannabis industry.
The Canadian cannabis industry is rapidly evolving and the women of weed are at the forefront of this movement, blazing trails for future generations. From entrepreneurs to advocates, these inspiring individuals are making a lasting impact on the sector and driving it towards a more diverse and equitable future. On International Women's Day, we commemorate the achievements of these remarkable women and thank them for their invaluable contributions to the Canadian cannabis industry.