The cannabis industry, historically a male-dominated industry, has seen a spike in the number of female employees across the nation. Today, women in the cannabis industry hold roughly “42% of the executive positions at ancillary services companies…and 35% of medical dispensaries and recreational stores,” according to the Marijuana Business Daily. In Celebration of International Women’s Day on Friday March 8th, we are recognizing some of the women in the cannabis industry in Massachusetts.
Marion McNabb, CEO and Co-Founder of the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN)
Marion McNabb, DrPH, MPH is the CEO and Co-Founder of the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN), a Massachusetts-based cannabis research company aiming to improve the evidence-base related to medical cannabis therapies. C3RN runs a virtual cannabis center of excellence, leveraging digital technologies to improve collaboration and research partnerships between the academic, clinical, and cannabis communities. C3RN, with UMass Dartmouth, is leading a two-year open cannabis consumer and patient research study to assess the impact on health, social, and economic outcomes. In March 2019, C3RN launched an open Cannabis Veterans and Veterans Family member research study with partners UMass Dartmouth and Veterans Alternative Healing (VAH). C3RN and VAH will co-host an event series in 2019 focused on science, education, and breaking cannabis stigma in Massachusetts through community engagement. C3RN is an approved qualified training vendor for the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission’s social equity training program.
Dr. McNabb holds over 15 years of global public health field experience implementing and evaluating sexual reproductive health and rights and technology-focused programs mainly in many African countries, Vietnam, and Haiti. Most recently, Marion consulted with UNICEF New York to draft a Global Approach for Digital Health for over 130 countries and consulted with HealthEnabled, a global digital health consulting firm, advising the Ugandan and South African Ministry of Health on the use of digital tools to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV. Prior, Dr. McNabb was a Senior Digital Health at Pathfinder International, where she led the development of a digital health global strategy, designed SMS-based behavior-change programs and clinical case management mobile applications and referral systems in Haiti, Nigeria, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Vietnam, and other low-income settings. Dr. McNabb holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) from St. Louis University in African and African American Studies, a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and a Doctorate in Public Health (DrPH) from Boston University School of Public Health.
Dr. McNabb is well-known and highly reespected in the Massachusetts cannabis community for her work to improve cannabis policy through research. Her work with C3RN to create and conduct cannabis research studies throughout Massachusetts has provided the industry with effective insights to help improve medical cannabis access and policy. When asked about the future for women in the cannabis industry, Dr. McNabb replied, “Women are leading the charge in the cannabis industry and [it’s] great to see a higher number of female-owned companies and leadership in this industry. For all the new women, there are great opportunities to make your place and career in a new industry, and lots of women-centric resources for ensuring success as a female.” Veterans who are interested in participating in the C3RN/Veterans Alternative Healing, Inc. anonymous survey can follow the link here.
JoAnne Lepannen, Executive Director, Chief Compliance Officer, Patient Education Specialist, & more – Bask, Inc.
JoAnne Lepannen holds many titles including Executive Director, Chief Compliance Officer, and Patient Education Specialist at Bask dispensary in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. After retiring from the practice of law, she joined the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC) as Executive Director and President. It was in Rhode Island where she met Chapman Dickerson, CEO and founder of Bask who, at the time, was cultivating cannabis as a caregiver in the state of Rhode Island.
When medical cannabis was legalized in Massachusetts, Lepannen joined Dickerson, Tim Keogh, and Melanie Dixon on the board of directors for Bask. As a Patient Education Specialist at Bask, Lepannen provides one-on-one consultations with patients to ensure they receive the education needed prior to making a purchase. Through her work, Bask is able to uphold its mission to provide patients with access to medical cannabis in a safe and clean environment with knowledgeable staff and educational resources.
Ann Brum, Founder of Joint Venture & Co.
Ann M. Brum, an industry professional, and founder of Joint Venture & Co., a Boston-based business development agency, has embarked on a very ambitious goal; to make any client; from a timid first-time cannabis user to a large dispensary to a healthcare organization, comfortable with both personal and business decisions in the cannabis and wellness arena.
For the past 10 years, Ann has dedicated herself to deciphering and clarifying these industries through information, support and organizational development. The emerging medical marijuana and adult-use market, along with a seemingly endless amount of wellness services, has overwhelmed consumers and the public. She achieves this goal by creating authentic, connected experiences and out-of-the-box thinking between the public, community organizations, and industry. Joint Venture & Co. is an extension of a personal dedication to promoting wellness by delivering real-time information on the cannabis market. Her pride lies in facilitating healthy exploration of wellness alternatives while reducing risk. These goals are achieved through informed decision making, support, information and clarity to the market, consumers and health care professionals.
As a female entrepreneur in the cannabis industry she notes, “I’ve had so many moments of feeling, ‘can I really do this?’ I had to stop overthinking it; just go for it, be honest with myself and our clients. Embrace riding the wave, and you’ll find yourself living a life that is simply satisfying.” Ann recently teamed up with social justice and policy advocates from C3RN and Veterans Alternative Healing to launch the Cannabis Advancement Series in Boston.
Ashley Payne, Marketing Manager – Bask, Inc.
Ashley Payne is the Marketing Manager at Bask, a registered medical cannabis dispensary in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Payne got her start in the cannabis industry soon after leaving a local marketing company in March of 2018. Initially, she performed a variety of roles at the dispensary, giving her a better understanding of the daily operations of the small business. After a few months, Payne noticed how her previous experience in marketing could help shape Bask’s marketing strategies. Her work can be viewed across social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, LinkedIn, the company’s website, and the weekly e-newsletters.
A graduate of Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia with degrees in Communication Studies and Musical Theater, Payne moved to Massachusetts just two weeks after graduation in 2013. After working in sales for Apple and management at a Marriott Hotel, she decided to start a small business making all-natural dog treats where she got most of her initial marketing experience. “When I started my job at Bask, I was nervous about going into an industry that I knew very little about. I was nervous about what some of my friends and family would think, especially being from the south where perceptions of cannabis aren’t always positive. I knew I was walking into a brand new world and to be honest, I was a bit scared,” explains Payne about her entry into the cannabis industry.
When asked about her experience as a woman in the cannabis industry she said, “It’s been almost a year since I started at Bask, and I have to say it’s the best decision I ever made. When I walked in the door and met Chappy and Tim [the CEO and President of Bask], they were so welcoming and I knew this is where I was meant to be. We’re fortunate at Bask to have so many women working in every department from cultivation and processing to sales and patient education. When I attend cannabis conferences and trade shows, women are definitely outnumbered by men. I can be tough sometimes for women in the cannabis industry, especially because many women aren’t very vocal about their cannabis use. I meet people all the time who are surprised when I tell them that I’m also a medical cannabis patient. I think having more women in the cannabis industry is one way we can help end the stigma around cannabis. We could help change the perception of who is using cannabis simply by telling people ‘I am a woman. I work in the industry. And I use cannabis.’ It’s time we change the negative perceptions of the ‘lazy stoner’ stereotype and show people that someone can choose to consume cannabis and still be a contributing member of society.”
Michelle Bennett, Founder of Healing Tree Edibles
Michelle Bennett started Healing Tree Edibles LLC, a CBD-infused edibles business based out of Cape Cod, in 2018 after falling and shattering her ankle. Using infused chocolate to replace prescribed opiates for pain, she was able to stay pill free throughout her healing. Bennett, with more than 25 years of experience in the food service industry, started Healing Tree Edibles as a way to offer “a healthy way of healing” with organic, gluten free, non-GMO, low sugar and sugar-free edibles as an alternative to traditional edibles, which are typically high in sugar.
As a result of her injury and lack of mobility, Bennett noticed her senior dog was gaining weight and having frequent arthritic flare ups. That’s when she began creating CBD-infused dog treats to help ease her dog’s pain and inflammation. “Just like our other products, these too are gluten-free and organic, ” explains Bennett. When asked about her experience in the cannabis industry, she replied, “The cannabis industry here in Massachusetts moves faster than the speed of light for just one person to be able to succeed. I’ve brought my cousin, Sarah Gibbs, a Johnson and Wales Culinary Graduate, on board to be my partner.”
Maintaining a cannabis business on Cape Cod does not come without challenges as many towns have voted against the adult-use cannabis industry, including ancillary businesses. Her advice to women interested in starting a business in the industry, “It’s a tough road to make these dreams become a reality. Long hours, constant battles, times where you just feel like giving up…’DON’T! You need to reach out and ask for help and guidance as it’s not easy by any means…changes happen hourly, but if you want to make it, don’t give up. ‘Slow and Steady wins the race. This won’t happen over night no matter how fast the industry moves.”
Natalie Moniz, Patient Education Specialist – Bask, Inc.
Natalie Moniz is a retired clinical social worker who began her role in the cannabis industry as a patient educator in September 2018 at the Bask dispensary in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Using her previous work experience, she is able to apply her clinical skills and knowledge of cannabis to help patients navigate this new frontier of personal empowerment with self-medication of cannabis.
Moniz started to grow her own cannabis soon after becoming a certified patient due to not being able to obtain a caregiver who was already growing for patients. “I became fascinated with the cannabis plant and soon realized using cannabis to relieve pain really was a very complex issue. Although there have been great strides made in a short time discovering the healing potential of this life affirming plant, there is much left to learn,” Moniz explains.
Her passion about medical marijuana’s potential to help patients help themselves is what interested her in joining the cannabis industry. Moniz encourages women who share the same passion to join the cannabis industry whether that passion is in cultivation, patient education, or sales roles. “As in so many other male dominated professions, this industry needs more balance with an increase of women in all areas of the industry.” Her advice to women interested in joining the cannabis industry, “You can make a difference!”