How These Seven Women are Changing the Cannabis Industry


My family has strong women role models (men too!) and that backbone has carried through in how I lead the operations in this company," explains Vander Veer. “Plus, the sense that women can control their own destiny in a new industry is definitely an attractive opportunity."

It's true that cannabis is somewhat of a taboo word these days, since legalization laws make it a pretty controversial topic everyone seems to have an opinion on. However, it's also safe to say that the internet has definitely allowed the cannabis industry to boom, since there are tons of new startup businesses (we're talking beauty products and media platforms!) popping up all around the country like wildfire.

However, you probably didn't know about the effect women have on the industry, since there are a growing variety of new cannabis businesses, both created and run by women. To see exactly why women are entering themselves into this controversial industry, we spoke to seven different cannabis influencers on how they are revolutionizing how people see cannabis.

Name: Lisa Margulies

Business Name: Burn TV (CFO)

Business Description: Cannabis multimedia entertainment platform aimed at educating viewers about the cannabis industry.

Lisa Burn

As the CFO of a newly formed cannabis multimedia entertainment company, Lisa Margulies is committed to creating an engaging platform that will educate viewers on both the light and dark sides of the industry, leading them to make the most informed choices, free of stigma. However, before she actually dove head-first into a cannabis-related business, Lisa was a mom of a struggling child who needed medical marijuana to survive.

Living through her own son's personal success story and acknowledging the crippling costs of healthcare and pharmaceutical drugs, Margulies wants viewers to know through Burn TV that medical marijuana can be more than beneficial to human health.

“There are so many other mothers who believe that pharmaceuticals are their only option," says Margulies. “I have helped many others who are struggling with cancer and other medical conditions with possibly choosing to see if medical marijuana could help them. I have had so many express gratitude for the relief that it brings as they overcome the stigma and understand its benefits."

And while there still are regulations and limitations on the industry due to political policies, Margulies is optimistic about the future of cannabis, since she sees the industry as a frontrunner in leading economic renewal.

“I believe that the states who have legalized both recreational and medical marijuana will lead the way in showing the actual impact to their bottom lines," adds Margulies. “In the next five to ten years, we will come to realize how impactful opening up this plant to industrial development really is."

Women, Margulies believes, play a key part in this, since she sees the newfound women's empowerment moment as a catalyst to propelling the cannabis industry forward. “I think women have become empowered to speak and create over the years," suggests Margulies. “The opportunity is equally open for women, and I am so happy to see them creating a voice and wealth here."

Name: Sally Vander Veer

Business Name: Medicine Man Dispensary (President)

Business Description: Colorado-based marijuana dispensary that carries a large variety of medical and recreational cannabis products.

Vander Veer

Since recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, it was fairly easy for Medicine Man Dispensary president Sally Vander Veer and her family to grow a large cannabis-related business. However, while cannabis' influence is definitely growing in today's society, she feels that the industry is still very young and is constantly evolving. However, being an innovative cannabis pioneer has been a very rewarding experience for Vander Veer, since she sees each day filled with new opportunities and challenges.

“I think what attracts people to the industry is that you are doing something that has never been done before, and will never be repeated," says Vander Veer. “Being a pioneer takes its toll on all of us in the industry, but in the best way possible. I wake up every day energized by the new challenges that I know will face me once I get to my office."

Like Lisa Margulies, Vander Veer notes that there are still negative stigmas surrounding the cannabis industry. However, thanks to the influential female role models in her life, she feels that women definitely have made an positive impact on the industry.

As the cannabis industry continues to boom, Vander Veer sees it as the beginning of something big. If and when federal legalization ever comes to play, she expects the cannabis movement to continue to grow even bigger than before.

“We believe as a family that the cannabis industry is unique because we are still at the very beginning of a big industry," states Vander Veer. “The market will continue to professionalize, and likely we will see larger businesses grow and come in as we hopefully move towards federal legalization."

Name: Shauntel Ludwig

Business Name: DaVinci Vaporizers (Director of Sales & Marketing)

Business Description: Top portable vaporizer company that produces vape units which vaporizes both herbs and oils.

As a former sales executive for a Fortune 100 company, Shauntel Ludwig entered the cannabis industry looking to leave the nine to five grind behind.

Shauntel Ludwig

Now, as the Director of Sales and Marketing for DaVinci Vaporizers, she can finally say she's doing something special, since she enjoys the groundbreaking opportunity to build an industry from the ground up.

“It's definitely opportunistic," says Ludwig. “You are seeing everything from marketing, event and law firms to ancillary devices and cultivators popping up left and right. It's not very often that a new industry is born and everyone wants their piece."

But like her fellow female leaders, Ludwig credits women to being the backbone of the cannabis industry, especially since she notes that 36 percent of cannabis businesses are currently being run by female executives.

“With women making up more than 50 percent of the voting population in the United States, and the marijuana movement being heavily tied to legislation, cannabis legalization isn't possible without the support of women," adds Ludwig. “With 36 percent of ancillary cannabis businesses reportedly being run by female executives, you're definitely seeing a more diverse workforce for sure."

However, at the end of the day, Ludwig says cannabis is all about helping people, since she says that's the best aspect of the business.

“Some of my best experiences are when I meet a customer who tells me how one of our products has changed their life for the better by allowing them to medicate on-the-go, or by providing pain relief without heavy pharmaceuticals," she says. “That's why I do this job."

Name: Lisa Harun

Business Name: Vapium (Founder)

Business Description: Vaporizer company that uses reliable technology to create smart design products that work in any condition, temperature, or climate.

Lisa Harun

Like Shauntel Ludwig, Lisa Harun traded in the journalism playing field for a brand new career in cannabis, since she always had the desire to help others. She also notes that the industry definitely has staying power, making it an exciting field to step foot in.

“There are two things about this industry that excites me," says Harun. “It has staying power, and it helps people. I did not have the stomach for medicine, but I have the heart to help people. We will continue to innovate and work with people who share a common vision – global validation of cannabis as both efficacious and safe."

A main part of Lisa's vision also means getting cannabis away from the image of solely being an intoxicant, since lack of education is a huge part of why people see marijuana in such a negative light.

“We seek to support cannabis as a wellness product and not about simply getting high," says Harun. “Marijuana is wellknown as an intoxicant, but only now is its vast medical potential coming to light."

It's true that the cannabis industry isn't expected to slow down anytime soon, and Harun notes that the female influence on the industry is something to watch in the future. She argues that women have a specific prevalence in Washington, making them the ones who will definitely have a major impact on political policy.

“Female support of Washington's marijuana reform Initiative 502 climbed to 53 percent in the last few days before the vote, swaying the vote," suggests Harun. “Women's conservative nature allows leaders to bootstrap, build communities, and identify solutions — all reasons we must not stand aside. Women must make their mark while the industry is growing in order to create an equitable space."

Name: Genifer Murray

Business Name: GENIFER M (Co-Founder)

Business Description: Produces handcrafted cannabis-inspired jewelry.

Genifer Murray

Genifer Murray has definitely seen the medicinal benefits of cannabis first hand, as her cannabis career started in 2010 when she co-founded one of the first cannabis testing labs (CannLabs) in the United States. Through her constant lobbying and work inside the industry, Murray realized she wanted to help better represent the industry, and make a statement that illustrated cannabis in both a non-threatening and elegant way.

“My mission with CannLabs was to provide safe and quality medicine to cannabis patients, which resulted in a bigger mission: to help others and the larger community that need this medicine through lobbying for its legalization," says Murray.

To make that bold statement, Murray decided to launch cannabis-inspired jewelry company GENIFER M, with the help of her father, as he designed her a unique 2.5 carat diamond pave indica leaf lapel to wear when she was lobbying with the NCIA, and the Govenor's Task Force for Amendment 64. Through wearing this special and handcrafted pin, Genifer hoped she could start a conversation about how people view cannabis.

“The pin created a movement, creating a non-threatening space for educating consumers about cannabis and its benefits," adds Murray. “GENIFER M is an extension of that conversation, and was launched to change the way people perceive, interact, and experience cannabis through luxe style and handcrafted quality jewelry." From earrings to bracelets, each GENIFER M piece is shaped like a marijuana leaf, and is handcrafted and made with gold, silver, and diamonds. And as the cannabis movement continues to grow, Gennifer notes that her business too is expanding, as she will soon be launching wholesale products that will be available at cannabis dispensaries and retail boutiques nationally.

“GENIFER M will continue to expand as the movement and conversation about cannabis grows, including the launch of new product lines such as The Healing Collection and a Gentleman's Collection, with unisex and male-orientated products," says Murray. “GENIFER M will also be launching wholesale products, selling jewelry in cannabis dispensaries and retail boutiques nationally."

Although she notes that there still is a lot of work to be done in the industry, Murray is more than optimistic about the cannabis movement's future, since she says it's a great opportunity for female entrepreneurs to thrive.

“In this industry 36 percent of women are in executive and leadership positions as opposed to six percent in tech and nine percent in the Fortune 500," states Murray. “This means that it could be the first time in history when women could run a billion trillion dollar industry. I think any woman would be excited about that."

Name: Megan Stone

Business Name: The High Road Design Studio (Owner and Founder)

Business Description: An award-winning interior design, branding and consulting studio in the cannabis retail community.

Megan Stone

Like Gennifer Murray, Megan Stone launched The High Road Design Studio to change the way people think, perceive, and experience cannabis. And although this isn't Stone's first experience with cannabis, this millennial business owner is taking the concept of running a cannabis businesses to the next level, especially since her design, branding, and consulting studio is the only interior design company in the United States specializing and focusing on cannabis retail design.

“I am a Midwestern-grown-West-Coast-processed female millennial business owner who is passionate about elevating the cannabis industry," says Stone. “From a cannabis patient to working in an Orange County dispensary as a budtender and general manager, to a design school student who was switching careers in the midst of my 20's during The Great Recession, I now design cannabis retail spaces across the United States. I launched my design company, The High Road Design Studio, as a result of my first-hand experience with cannabis, love for good design, and desire to help reframe people's perceptions of a plant that saves lives."

Working with cannabis-focused businesses in more than thirteen states, it's safe to say that The High Road Design Studio is definitely making an impact. However, despite female-advancements in the industry, Stone feels that the industry itself still needs a makeover, as decades of sales being regulated to the black market have caused cannabis users to be labeled as criminals.

“Cannabis is now a mainstay in society, and people everywhere are trying to make sense of this new retail experience," adds Stone. “Its retail stores are the public face of the industry and are where the vast majority of interactions with the cannabis industry happen. Design and design-thinking applied to the cannabis retail experience are the keys that will unlock the new world of legal cannabis and provide the solutions and creativity needed to attract, educate and satisfy 21st century cannabis users."

Name: Beth Stavola

Business Name: CBD For Life (founder)

Business Description: Line of cannabidiol-infused pain management and beauty products.

Beth Stavola

As a former executive on Wall Street, Beth Stavola started her cannabis journey by purchasing a legal medical marijuana dispensary in Arizona. Although she had no experience with marijuana whatsoever, Stavola was up for a challenge. Now, Stavola (alongside her sister Julie) takes her journey into cannabis a step further, since she now creates her own line of cannabidiol-infused pain managment and beauty products.

“My sister, Julie Winter, and I founded and launched CBD For Life after I learned about the wonderful healing properties of CBD," says Stavola. “After months of extensive research, Julie and I met with a chemist to create the luxurious formulations, and two years later CBD For Life was born! Our personal story and connection to our products are what set us apart from the competition. We are truly invested in and believe in the powers of CBD."

Offering everything from cannabidiol-infused eye serums to pain relief spray, Stavola notes that CBD For Life is definitely expanding. However, she notes that overcoming the stigma is still a hurdle the industry faces, since many consumers assume that CBD is psychotropic.

“CBD is the major non-psychotropic cannabinoid found in hemp, contrasted to THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the chemical compound in cannabis responsible for a euphoric high," states Stavola. “CBD For Life works to educate consumers on the difference between CBD and THC, making it clear that we only use the healing properties of CBD in our products."

As the industry continues to thrive, Stavola is increasingly excited about cannabis' place in society. And as a female business owner herself, she hopes to see other women continue to influence the industry.

“I think women are gravitating towards the cannabis movement because it provides great opportunity to become a leader in a booming industry," claims Stavola. “The industry is still new and highly innovative, with cannabis being used in ways no one had ever imagined. We expect the cannabis industry to expand greatly in the years to come."

6 Min Read

All My Life I've Had To Fight

I live the pain and stress of being black in America every day: I am a black woman, the mother of a black son, sister to black men, and aunt to my black nephews. I remember what it was like as a young girl to be afraid to go to Howard Beach for fear of being chased out. I know what it's like to walk on Liberty Avenue and be called "nigger" and being so young that I didn't understand what the word meant, I had to ask my mother. I know too well that feeling in the pit of your stomach when a police car pulls up behind you and even though you know you haven't done anything wrong you fear that your life may be in danger from what should be a simple encounter. Like all African Americans, I am tired of this burden.

African Americans have a long history of having to fight for our humanity in America. We have had to fight for freedom, we have had to fight for equality, and we have had to fight for our lives. The fight continues to go on. I have often quoted that line from the character Sophia in Alice Walker's The Color Purple, "All my life I had to fight." When I say this to my white counterparts it can sometimes be uncomfortable because it's clear that they just don't get it. They view it as melodramatic. But it's not. It's part of the black experience, and it is the part of the black experience that black people don't want.

I have often quoted that line from the character Sophia in Alice Walker's The Color Purple, "All my life I had to fight."

While I was out yesterday, passing out PPE and talking to people, a woman asked me, "What is it going to take for this to change?" I told her that I think peaceful protesting is a good start. But it's just the start. We can't elect the same people for the past 20-30 years, some in the same positions, and then talk about how nothing has changed in the past 30 years.

This injustice, inequality, and inequity will not spontaneously disappear. It will take bold, outspoken, and fearless leadership to eradicate the systemic racism in our country. We must address the violence at the hands of a police force paid to serve and protect us. We must address the recurring experience of black people being passed over for a promotion and then being asked to train the white person who was hired. We must address the inequities in contract opportunities available to black businesses who are repeatedly deemed to lack the capacity. We must address the disparity in the quality of education provided to black students. We must address the right to a living wage, health care, and sick pay.

While we like to regard the system as broken, I've come to believe the system is working exactly as it was meant to for the people who are benefiting from it. We need a new system. One that works for all of us. I am running to become the mayor of New York City because I can't assume there's another person who has the courage to do the work that needs to be done to create a fair and just city.

We can't elect the same people for the past 20-30 years, some in the same positions, and then talk about how nothing has changed in the past 30 years.

There are some things we may not be able to change in people, but at this moment I think that whether you are black, white, purple, or yellow we all should be looking internally to see what is one thing that you can do to change this dynamic. Here's where we can start:

If we want change, we need a total reform of police departments throughout this country. That is going to require taking a hard look at our requirements to become a police officer, our disciplinary procedures when civilian complaints are filed, and a review of what and how we police. No one deserves to lose their life based upon the accusation of carrying counterfeit cash. We also need to hold police officers accountable for their actions. While it is their duty to protect and serve they should not be above the law. Even at this very moment, police officers are overstepping their boundaries.

If we want change, we have to build a sense of camaraderie between the police and community. A sense of working together and creating positive experiences. We have to be honest about the fact that we haven't allowed that to happen because we have utilized our police department as a revenue-generating entity. We are more concerned with cops writing tickets than protecting and serving. Even during these moments of protest we are witness to the differences made when the police supported the protesters and stood hand in hand with them or took a knee. It resulted in less violence and more peaceful protest. People felt heard; people felt respected; people felt like they mattered.

While we like to regard the system as broken, I've come to believe the system is working exactly as it was meant to for the people who are benefiting from it. We need a new system.

If we want change, we have to be willing to clean house. And that means that some of you are going to have to step up to the plate and take roles of leadership. In my city alone, there are 35 city council seats that are term-limited in 2021. There are some that aren't termed but maybe their term should be up. Step up to the plate and run. If nothing else it will let our elected officials see that they need to stop being comfortable and do more. We don't need you out in the street taking selfies or reporting the problems to us. We need solutions. We need you in a room implementing policies that will ensure that these things don't continue to happen.

If we want change, we need to support grassroots candidates that are not in corporate pockets, who are not taking PAC money, and who really want to make a difference to their community. We need candidates that know first-hand and can relate to the experiences that many of us are going through.

We are at a pivotal moment. It is inspiring to see people from all races and backgrounds in the streets protesting, standing up for justice, and wanting to see change. We must seize this moment, but we must also be mindful that change requires more.

People often ask me why I decided to run for office? I am running for me. I am running for the little girl that was called nigger on Liberty Avenue. For the woman who has been pulled over for no reason. For my nephew who was consistently stopped during the era of stop and frisk. I am running for your son, your brother, and your nephew. I am running so that the next generation will never have to say, "All my life I had to fight." Because although we won't stop until we see justice and changes that address inequality and inequity effectively, this fight is exhausting.