international women's day

International Women’s Day: 5 Women Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges

by | Mar 8, 2024

international women's day

Written by Kristina Etter

Kristina is a digital content creator and designer. She has a talent for creating engaging and informative content that resonates with our professional audience. Kristina’s passion for the cannabis industry stems from her belief that it has the potential to revolutionize the world in many ways, and has a personal testimony of cannabis success.

Today, as the world celebrates International Women’s Day, I find myself reflecting on the remarkable journey of women within the cannabis industry. It’s a day to honor the achievements of women and recognize their tireless efforts in challenging norms and reshaping perceptions.

This day holds particular significance for me, not only as a woman but as someone who has spent the past eight years immersed in the world of cannabis, both as a professional and a passionate advocate.

Brought to this industry, as a wife looking for answers for her husband, and a woman seeking a brighter future for my own health. I intimately understand how our stories can put an end to stigmas and show another perspective.

International Women’s Day in the Cannabis Industry

International Women’s Day serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing fight for gender equality and empowerment. It is a day to recognize the countless women who have shattered glass ceilings, challenged societal norms, and paved the way for future generations. And within the realm of cannabis, women are undeniably at the forefront of this movement, driving forward the normalization and destigmatization of a plant that has been unjustly maligned for far too long.

The women I had the privilege of interviewing embody the spirit of resilience, innovation, and unwavering determination that defines our industry. Each one has carved out her own unique path, overcoming obstacles and defying expectations along the way.

These are the trailblazers, visionaries, and catalysts for change. Through their experiences, insights, and unwavering commitment to excellence, they offer a glimpse into the transformative power of cannabis and the pivotal role that women play in its evolution.

But beyond our individual journeys, women represent a collective force for change—a sisterhood of advocates and innovators who are shaping the future of cannabis.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us take a moment to honor women’s contributions, for they are the vanguards of progress in a movement that is as much about empowerment as it is about plant medicine.

Let me introduce you to a few of the women who’ve inspired me this year.

In the Beginning, Sparks of Inspiration

In the genesis of each woman’s company lies a deeply personal journey intertwined with passion, purpose, and the pursuit of positive change. Their entry into the cannabis industry is a testament to the transformative power of cannabis and its potential to improve lives.

International Women's Day

Sierra Elaina, CEO of Lehua Brands

Sierra found her inspiration rooted in a deeply personal experience. Witnessing her father’s struggle with Parkinson’s Disease ignited her interest in cannabis as a therapeutic alternative to traditional medications.

She said, “I believe that everything starts with a good night’s sleep. If I can help consumers wake up feeling rested and refreshed, I know I have earned their trust and the right to build my relationship with them.”

Fueled by a desire to provide holistic solutions for health and wellness, Sierra identified a gap in the market and seized the opportunity to create the Live Oro wellness shot. Her motivation extends beyond profit margins; it stems from a genuine desire to improve lives and offer products that resonate with consumers on a personal level.

Kim Stuck, CEO & Founder of Allay Consulting

Kim embarked on her cannabis journey from a unique vantage point—as a former regulator for the city of Denver. Her firsthand experience in overseeing the regulation of cannabis propelled her to transition into a role where she could make a more significant impact.

Recognizing the need for expert guidance in navigating the complex landscape of compliance, Kim founded Allay Consulting, leveraging her regulatory expertise to assist companies in achieving and maintaining compliance standards.

Kim and I have talked several times throughout my career as a writer and editor in the cannabis space. Not only is she a wealth of information, she understands why standards and regulations are necessary, not just for consumer safety, but for defining adequate business processes.

Jane Sandelman, Co-founder & CEO of Cannatrol

Jane brings a wealth of knowledge from the food industry to the world of cannabis. Drawing on the success of their technology in other industries, Jane and her team recognized an opportunity to revolutionize post-harvest processes in cannabis cultivation.

“We knew we could bring real value to the industry,” Jane added.

Their journey into the cannabis industry was driven by a commitment to addressing existing challenges and providing tangible solutions that would enhance quality and efficiency for growers.

Leili Fatehi and Laura Monn Ginsburg, Principals & Partners at Blunt Strategies

This dynamic duo found their entry point into the cannabis industry through advocacy and activism. Their involvement in the campaign to legalize adult-use cannabis in Minnesota laid the foundation for Blunt Strategies, a consultancy dedicated to advancing social justice and equity within the industry. Leili and Laura seized the opportunity to shape the future of cannabis legislation and regulation in Minnesota.

What is striking about the genesis stories of these women is the diversity of motivations and backgrounds that have propelled them into the cannabis industry. Yet, they share a common thread of passion, resilience, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

Catalysts for Change

Although the numbers have declined, the cannabis industry witnessed a significant influx of women leaders, driving forward the normalization and destigmatization of a plant long misrepresented. It’s imperative to recognize the pivotal role they play in reshaping the landscape of the cannabis sector.

From CEOs to founders, these women are not just breaking barriers; they are forging new paths, inspiring others, and shaping the future of cannabis and beyond.

international women's day in cannabis, empowerment

Personal Journeys of Empowerment

The personal motivations and experiences of women leaders in the cannabis industry provide a glimpse into the transformative power of resilience and determination. Sierra found inspiration rooted in a deeply personal experience.

“For me, it was personal. I became interested in cannabis when my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.” Her commitment to holistic wellness and consumer trust underscores the profound impact of personal experiences in driving positive change within the industry.

Similarly, Stuck embarked on her cannabis journey from a unique vantage point. “I was a regulator for the city of Denver before entering the industry,” she professed. Her transition from regulator to consultant highlights the importance of adaptability and resilience in navigating the complex regulatory landscape of the cannabis sector.

Jane Sandelman at Cannatrol, brought a wealth of knowledge from the food industry to the world of cannabis. “We came into cannabis by way of the food industry,” she explained. Her focus on science-based solutions and maintaining high standards reflects a commitment to excellence within the cannabis sector.

Leili Fatehi and Laura Monn Ginsburg found their entry point into the cannabis industry through advocacy and activism. The duo stated, “We initially entered the industry through our campaign to legalize adult-use cannabis in Minnesota.” Their dedication to fostering inclusivity and collaboration underscores a commitment to creating a more equitable and supportive industry for all.

Driving Innovation and Excellence

Women leaders in the cannabis industry are at the forefront of prioritizing consumer safety and compliance with regulations. Sierra at Lehua Brands, spoke of the importance of consumer trust.

She emphasized, “Our customers’ health and safety is always our number one priority.” Her commitment to rigorous product testing and adherence to internal standards sets a benchmark for excellence within the industry.

In a different approach, Kim Stuck leverages her regulatory expertise to assist companies in achieving and maintaining compliance standards. She highlights the importance of expertise and guidance in navigating the complex regulatory landscape, “We specialize in state regulations, FDA, cGMP, and OSHA compliance.”

Innovation and Adaptability

Women entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry are driving innovation and adaptation, revolutionizing processes and technologies to meet industry challenges. Jane Sandelman brought cutting-edge technology from the food industry to cannabis cultivation. Describing their motivation, she explained, “Our post-harvest solutions allow growers to achieve consistent, repeatable results and comply with GMP standards harvest after harvest.”

Meanwhile, Leili Fatehi and Laura Monn Ginsburg at Blunt Strategies, are pioneering government relations consultancy exclusively for the cannabis industry. With a focus on advocacy and collaboration, they are committed to creating a more efficient and ethical industry.

“From call one, we’re explicit with our clients on how we view the industry, the opportunity, and the expectations of how businesses will operate,” they stated.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Women leaders in the cannabis industry employ strategies to stay ahead of legislative changes and market dynamics, ensuring continued success and innovation. Sierra highlighted the importance of staying connected with consumers.

“I’m a CEO who is still on the street. I listen to the budtenders and my customers to understand the evolving market dynamics,” Sierra noted.

Kim Stuck also mentioned the importance of networking and relationships in navigating industry shifts. “Relationships are how you get in the right rooms, get in the right conversations, and know the right people,” she added.

As the cannabis industry continues to expand and evolve, women leaders are driving forward innovation and excellence, setting new standards for quality, compliance, and consumer trust.

international women's day in cannabis

Paving the Way for Future Generations

Don’t wait for a call to action, like International Women’s Day, to recognize the critical importance of female influence. Women leaders in the cannabis industry are dedicated to fostering community building and collaboration, creating a supportive network for future generations. Leili and Laura, have established the Minnesota Women’s Cannabusiness Network, providing a platform for women to learn, collaborate, and invest in one another.

They noted the importance of support networks and mentorship in empowering women in the industry, stating, “Our every-other-month meetings attract more than 75 women attendees who want to work with other women in the industry.”

Long-Term Goals and Aspirations

These women have long-term goals and aspirations focused on creating a more inclusive and equitable industry for future generations. As Sierra mentioned, she hopes to see her products accessible to anybody, anywhere.

“My plan is to strategically expand our footprint and our portfolio and see our product available on every grocery shelf and in drug stores in the US and other global markets,” she said.

Kim Stuck’s goals are unwavering, as she aims to expand while remaining true to her core principles. She shared, “Our consultants become like family to our clients after a couple of months of working with them. Our success is tied to their success.”

Empowering the Next Generation

Committed to empowering the next generation of women leaders and inspiring them to pursue their passions and break down barriers, Jane encourages women to trust their instincts and stay the course.

“Surround yourself with smart people that challenge you, and trust your gut. Make sure your product and your selling proposition are solid and well thought out.”

As leaders in the cannabis space, women are not just shaping the industry’s present; they are paving the way for a brighter and more inclusive future. Through community building, long-term goals, and empowerment initiatives, they are inspiring the next generation of women leaders to continue breaking down barriers and driving positive change in the cannabis industry and beyond.

“Find the women – they know how to get shit done and aren’t afraid to bring other women along for the ride.”

Leili & Laura – blunt strategies

On this International Women’s Day, let us celebrate the achievements of women like Sierra, Kim, Jane, Leili, and Laura. Their stories are not just about breaking barriers; they are about forging new paths, inspiring others, and shaping the future of cannabis and beyond. In their words and actions, we find the true essence of women’s empowerment – a force to be reckoned with, a voice to be heard, and a vision for a brighter, more inclusive future.

Thank you to the women who’ve led the way and thank you to the women who are just stepping into the industry with the heart and determination to make a difference in how the world perceives us all.