International Women’s Day, a global day that celebrates the economic, cultural, social, and political achievements of women, is March 8th. In honor of this day, even if I am a day late, I’m lucky to be able to share the enthusiasm and verve of the following women in cannabis who have faced adversity during their climb to success. I don’t mean that success can be quantified only by monetary means. What I call success occurs when a person is celebrated for their kindness, their humility, and yes, their ability to be something beyond the call of duty. These following women have created something from nothing. And with their talent comes notice— the kind that can’t be bought, because it comes from deep within. May I present these eight, very intriguing, female leaders in cannabis who get it.
Julia Jacobson, CEO of Aster Farms
As CEO of Aster Farms, Julia brings an expertise in entrepreneurship, supply chain management and business development to the Aster team. Her personal interest in cannabis is rooted in her battle with chronic migraines, incorporating the plant with her prescribed routine to mitigate symptoms, balance equilibrium and chart a healthy course. Julia develops Aster’s high-level vision, ensuring the team is two steps ahead as the company scales. Prior to Aster Farms Julia was co-founder and CEO of NMRKT, an affiliate marketing platform for content providers. She led the company through Techstars and it’s acquisition by XO Group in 2016, where she went on to be the Director of National Revenue Products. Julia’s career began as a buyer for Bloomingdale’s, giving her a solid foundation in retail and supply chain economics. Today, Julia continues to be a mentor to Techstars and to young entrepreneurs in many fields. Aster Farms is sustainably grown cannabis from Northern California. With a deep-rooted belief that responsible farming, live soil and organic inputs produce the highest quality flowers, Aster Farms lets nature do the work because clean cannabis equals a clean high. Clean cannabis for a clean high. Bigger than buds.
Liz Jackson-Simpson, Chief Executive Officer & Angela White, Equity for Industry Program Manager at Success Centers SF
Liz Jackson-Simpson has served as the Executive Director of Success Centers SF since 2010. She has over 32 years of workforce development and juvenile justice experience. During her limited tenure with the organization she has tripled its capacity taking it from a $450K to $2.1M organization doubling the staff, bringing new donors in addition to the acquisition of a new community location in the Western Addition. Although Liz is indeed an artist, even art took a second place to her love of community. While at San Francisco State, Liz began working with the Private Industry Council (now known as the Office of Economic and Workforce Development), becoming an expert in workforce development and education programs, and eventually co-authoring the highly praised Youth Opportunity grant from the Federal Department of Labor. The YO! grant secured $28 million for youth employment programs in San Francisco.
She then went to the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department, where she spent 16 years creating job training programs at Log Cabin Ranch for Boys, and developing re-integration services for young people released from incarceration. Liz directed the Juvenile Probation Department’s Community Programs Division, overseeing millions of dollars each year for enrichment programs and opportunities for our youth. After retiring from the SF Juvenile Probation Department, Liz took the challenge to become the first Executive Director of the Success Center SF following a five year-stint as the first-ever YMCA of San Francisco Executive Director of Program Development—a position created specifically to showcase and borrow her enormous expertise. Back to her career roots within the YMCA, Liz is working hard to develop strong connections between traditional YMCA wellness programs and desperately needed social services.
As Equity for Industry Program Manager, Angela’s focus is developing sustainable career and entrepreneurial paths previously less accessible to communities impacted by inequality and the War on Drugs. She offers community members career assessments and coaching, job placement, access to on-the-job training, and job training for employment in the cannabis industry. She also assists verified equity applicants in obtaining the critical business experience, educational resources and toolsets required to develop sustainable business models and achieve entrepreneurial success. In less than two years at Success Centers, Angela has developed an incredible array of workshops, resources and growth opportunities for community members and Success Centers partners seeking to establish their equitable participation in the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.
Angela’s development and implementation of the Budding Industry Job Shop and Equity for Industry Workshop has forged the gold standard of equitable cannabis workforce and business development events. Angela’s also responsible for Success Centers’ partnership with Oaksterdam University and Hood Incubator, providing opportunities for community members to engage in these preeminent cannabis business tracks through scholarship. A Bay Area local and herself a graduate of Oaksterdam University, Angela draws from pioneering experience in cannabis entrepreneurship under California’s Proposition 215 medical marijuana program and the recently implemented AUMA adult-use regulatory framework. Angela helped launch one of the first MMJ collectives in East Palo Alto and later a MMJ dispensary in San Jose. Angela’s first-hand knowledge of the many facets in day-to-day work performed at startups in the space—from cultivation and budtending, retail design and staffing, to dispatching drivers and office management—forms the foundation of her mentorship with aspiring new employees, businesses, and equity entrepreneurs.
Success Centers’ mission is to empower marginalized community members through education, employment and art programs, so they may develop a positive self-image as well as a sense of hope and purpose for their future. Success Centers is a recognized and respected leader for these programs, which produce outstanding results for hundreds of disconnected youth and other marginalized community members each year. Success Centers was founded by Superior Court Judges 36 years ago to provide education and employment opportunities to youth in San Francisco’s juvenile detention facilities. Since then, Success Centers has grown to provide services to community members in San Francisco, San Mateo, Sonoma and Alameda Counties with more districts in progress. Of the 1300 disconnected youth and marginalized community members Success Centers serves annually, over 95 percent are low-income and 87 percent are people of color, with the majority being African American and Latinx/Hispanic — 46 percent and 20 percent respectively (2017-2018 stats, 2018-2019 pending).
Chrissy Hadar, Co-Founder, President of Retail & Chief Branding Officer at Oregrown Industries
Drawing from a background in business, with a finance degree from the University of Montana, Chrissy Hadar, the Portland, Oregon, native, designed Oregrown’s award-winning flagship and forthcoming Portland store—from wholesale and retail operations to the customer experience. Hadar’s retail and business development expertise also saw the creation of the company’s lifestyle and marketing divisions where today teams of prominent artists, developers, ambassadors, and specialized vendors innovate on driving Oregrown’s message to the marketplace. Overseeing Oregrown Industries’ 60 employees and expansion, Hadar fosters the organization’s financial and operational growth while shepherding the brand from the shadows of prohibition. Oregrown is a standout among brands. As Oregon’s premier farm-to-table cannabis company, the Oregrown team cultivates using organic methods and processes world-class products in the pursuit of unparalleled craftsmanship in every facet of their supply chain. As the first, exclusive Oregon producer for PAX Era, Oregrown’s cultivation and extraction professionals craft several of the state’s premiere dispensary products including their own lines of Oregrown flower, extracts, and concentrates. Oregrown’s award winning dispensary located in downtown Bend, Oregon, an outdoor recreation destination and tourism capital of the Pacific Northwest, has been named Best Budtender (2019), Best Place to Work (2017), Bend’s Best Place to Visit for First Dispensary Experience (2016), and Bend’s Best Dispensary five years in a row (2015-2019). In Q1 2020, Oregrown expanded its retail footprint across Oregon with the opening of two new flagship stores, in Portland and Cannon Beach. Oregrown’s fourth flagship is slated to open in Eugene, Oregon, this summer.
Marie Montmarquet, President of MD Farms
Marie Montmarquet is a legacy cannabis operator who’s been passionate about the plant for over 13 years. After graduating from the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in Political Science and Psychology she moved to California from Nashville in 2010. Over the last decade Marie has created numerous successful vertically integrated cannabis businesses with her brother Allen Hackett, co-founder and CEO of MD Farms, including one of largest delivery services in San Francisco, and a large scale cultivation, nursery, processing and distribution facility in Salinas. In addition to building new businesses, she’s focused on being an advocate for social justice and equity in the cannabis space. She’s an advisor to the cannabis equity program for Success Centers and offers monthly tours to the farm for equity applicants. Her goals for 2020 are to create equity brands, advise, support and champion equity in every way possible.
MD Farms was established in 2016 with the mindset that high quality, sustainable, organic cultivation will be the future of the cannabis market. Brother and sister team Allen Hackett and Marie Montmarquet have fought through tremendous financial and emotional distress to retain 100% ownership of their farm. MD Farms’ primary mission is centered around corporate responsibility, sustainability and equity in every facet. They believe in being accountable stewards to the environment, community and their employees, including paying above a living wage and making sure every decision made is centered around leaving the earth better than they found it. MD Farms is configuring all their processes in 2020 to reclaim, reuse and recycle every raw material possible, including water and soil. On the equity front, MD Farms is making sure to use this cultivation facility as a live experience for others that come from social injustice to see what can be done with determination and hard work. Marie and Allen feel incredibly fortunate to have overcome their challenges and have the opportunity to help other minorities.
Shelby Hartman, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief & Madison Margolin, Co-Founder, Managing Editor of DoubleBlind
Shelby Hartman and Madison Margolin are the co-founders of DoubleBlind, a biannual print magazine and digital media company at the forefront of the rapidly growing psychedelic movement. Hartman, a reporter and editor specializing in psychedelics, cannabis, drug policy, and mental health, has appeared in VICE, Quartz, the Huffington Post, and Rolling Stone, among others. She worked in broadcast news production for CBS News, covering presidential elections, protests, natural disasters, and other breaking news. Spurred by a passion for print and investigative reporting, she transitioned to magazine writing, working as an editor at Pasadena Magazine and receiving her Master’s Degree in long-form journalism from Columbia University in 2015. Since, Hartman has worked as a columnist at LA Weekly and an editor at Herb, the largest cannabis media company, with extensive features on the cannabis industry, the psychedelic research boom, the popularization of ayahuasca, and post-traumatic stress disorder in the veteran community.
Madison Margolin, also a Los Angeles/New York-based journalist, covers psychedelics, cannabis, drug policy, and spirituality, has written for Playboy Magazine, Rolling Stone, Nylon, VICE, LA Weekly, High Times, Tablet, and others. A graduate of Columbia Journalism School and UC Berkeley, Margolin has traveled everywhere from pot farms in the Emerald Triangle to the shores of the Ganges River, and all over Israel-Palestine, exploring the role of plant medicine in religion, mental health, and conflict resolution. She got her start in journalism with a column on cannabis at the Village Voice, after having lived in south Tel Aviv working with Eritrean refugees. With more than four years of experience covering cannabis and other drugs, Madison has spoken on topics like social equity, cannabis feminism, cannabis journalism, and so forth at conferences like Digital Hollywood, the Association of Alternative New Media, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, The Rind’s Women in Cannabis, Pepperdine’s Cannabis Law Symposium, and more.
DoubleBlind is a biannual print magazine and digital media company at the forefront of the rapidly growing psychedelic movement. With contributors around the globe, DoubleBlind covers stories from South America’s ayahuasca tourism industry to the Silicon Valley microdosing trend and the groundbreaking research at leading universities. At the core of DoubleBlind’s reporting are some of the most important issues of our time: the depression epidemic, the corporatization of medicine, and the aching people feel for spirituality or some other collective sense of meaning—all presented in visually compelling, rigorous long-form features, poetry, art, and photo essays. In 2020, DoubleBlind debuts events, transforming these potent topics into community engagements for psychonauts and the psychecurious.
Sally Nichols, Co-Founder, GirlVentures/President, Bloom Farms Distribution/President Bloom Farms CBD
Sally Nichols is a pioneering investor and executive in the cannabis and hemp CBD markets. Since 2014, she has made numerous successful investments across a range of industry sectors and markets and has been a key member of the executive team building Bloom Farms, a premium California vape, flower and CBD brand that is quickly expanding across the country. Following her investment in Bloom Farms, Sally joined the company’s executive team and now serves as Bloom Farms’ President of Distribution and President of CBD, leading the company’s nationwide entry into premium hemp-derived CBD products. As head of distribution, she has built and leads a proprietary, scalable, compliant platform to provide sales, retailer support, warehousing and fulfilment for the Company’s products and premium third-party brands. Bloom Farms distribution has helped several third-party brands enter the California market and grow sales by 600% . Her team has secured numerous licenses in California and built sales, delivery and warehousing capabilities to serve retailers in both the northern and southern California markets.
During her tenure, Bloom Farms expanded operations into Nevada, will soon be adding a major east coast market, added a premium flower line, and announced a program to support continued diversity in the California cannabis industry by having 50% of its suppliers be women-owned or -operated businesses.Sally is known throughout the industry for her deep understanding of market structure and dynamics and her expertise in brand and product development, sales strategy, and fundraising. Prior to entering the cannabis industry, Sally was a highly successful entrepreneur in technology businesses. In 1994, she raised funds for her first start-up, one of the first online education companies, and exited in a sale to a leading entertainment company. Later, she served as a senior executive for a pioneering internet incubator and built a successful healthcare software business that was sold to a large pharmaceutical company. Sally holds a BA in International Relations and completed graduate studies in that field at USC. She later received a Certificate in Creative Writing/Fiction from UCLA.
Bloom Farms is a California-based cannabis and CBD company that provides millions of people with enjoyable ways to relax, find relief, inspire creativity and enjoy life a little more. The company is dedicated to producing high-quality, great tasting cannabis and hemp-derived products that appeal to a broad range of consumers. It is among the largest cannabis vape brands in California and its portfolio of cannabis flower products quickly became a top-10 seller in the state. Bloom Farms sources from responsible farmers and has pledged that 50% of its cannabis suppliers will be women-owned or operated farms by the end of 2020. Since 2015, Bloom Farms has been committed to corporate social responsibility and provides a healthy meal via regional partner food banks for each product it sells – with over 2 million meals provided to date.
Bloom Farms CBD brings a commitment to quality, purity and community — along with the health benefits CBD has long been believed to provide — to consumers across the U.S. Bloom Farms CBD is all-natural, full-spectrum and certified organic. It is extracted using a proprietary method that preserves the original terpene and cannabinoid profile of the source plants. It is derived from hemp grown biodynamically in ultra-clean, healthy soil on a farm that employs zero-waste cultivation techniques and is non-intoxicating as the hemp has been bred to produce less than 0.3% THC.