Women in the US, Australia and the UK will be celebrating the many historical and contemporary contributions made by their fellow women during the entire month of March. In this article I will discuss the origins of Women’s History Month and spotlight some of the many high-profile women in the cannabis industry. I will include Bloom Medicinal’s very own CEO, Nicole van Rensburg.
The History of Women’s History Month
It all started on February 28, 1909 in New York City, with the national observance of the first Women’s Day. Organized by the Socialist Party, it celebrated the one-year anniversary of the strikes in New York by female garment workers. Thousands of women, demanding economic rights, marched though lower Manhattan to Union Square. FYI: The 1908 strike honored the 1857 rally when garment workers marched for equal rights and the demand for shorter work days of 10 hours. By 1911, Women’s Day became an international observance, spreading into Europe.
In the 1970s, American feminists were determined to right the wrong of the omissions in history books of the many contributions that American women made to this country. It all started in Sonoma County, CA, with the revision of the school curriculum by one group of activists which was called the National Women’s History Project. Their plan was to create Women’s History Week in 1978 to coincide with International Women’s Day which was established in 1975 by the UN.
The idea took off and spread to schools all over the county. The organizers established a “Real Women” essay contest in which hundreds of women gave presentations to students in their classrooms.
In 1979, one of the Sonoma County organizers attended a conference of the Women’s History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. When the other participants learned about the activities in Sonoma County, similar celebrations spread across the country.
With the success and excitement surrounding the idea of an annual Women’s History Week, activists lobbied Congress. President Jimmy Carter declared the first national Women’s History Week to take place during March 2-8, 1980. By 1987, Congress passed a proclamation establishing Women’s History Month.
The 2020 Women’s History Month Theme
Every year a theme is chosen. In celebration of the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote, this year’s theme is “Valiant Women of the Vote.” It was chosen to honor “the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women, and for the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others.”
Notable Women in the Cannabis Industry
Every woman on this list of high-profile women in the cannabis industry is working towards the goal of removing the stigma attached to using cannabis and the federal legalization of cannabis.
1. Ophelia Chong
Ophelia Chong wears many hats; a community activist, artist, illustrator, educator and graphic designer. Already a well-known photographer, Ophelia Chong combined her love of photography with her love of cannabis, creating StockPotImages.com, a stock photo agency. Her impetus was to remove the stigma by portraying cannabis use in the best possible light. She also founded Asian Americans for Cannabis Education. (AACE). She served as the Community Outreach liaison for one of the top California cannabis growers, THC Design. She oversaw outreach for the LGBT community, veterans, women, the disabled and minorities. Born in Canada, she became a US citizen in 2000. In 2019, she and her partners joined Green Sky Strategy, a global marketing strategy company, specializing in cannabis and hemp. Ophelia strongly believes that if you use cannabis, you should be involved in the entire growing process; from seed germination to harvesting it.
2. Nancy Whiteman
In 2010, Nancy Whiteman founded Wana Brands which produces both medicinal and recreational edibles, vapes and capsules. Her company is the top edibles producer in Colorado. She has already expanded her operations into Arizona, Oregon and Nevada with further expansion into Illinois, Michigan and Florida in 2020.
3. Dr. Cristina Sanchez
Dr. Sanchez is a molecular biologist at Computense University, Madrid, Spain, and one of the leading experts on successful medical cannabis treatment for breast cancer. Through her research, which spans over 25 years, she concluded that THC has anti-cancer properties which can eradicate cancer cells by significantly shutting off the pathways that allow the cancer cells to grow. Her treatment protocol uses RSO and/or raw cannabis. She speaks all over the world on the subject. She is on the board of the Spanish Observatory for Medical Cannabis (OEDCM).
4. Jazmin Hupp and Jane West
Hupp and West founded Women Grow in Colorado in 2014, a networking community that connects, educates and empowers female leadership in the cannabis industry. There are chapters in 45 cities in the US and Canada.
Fortune Magazine called Hupp a “genius entrepreneur” and Forbes Magazine named her one of the “top businesswomen” in the industry.
Her background is in Theater and Management Information Systems. Her quest to support female leadership began in 2011 when she became Director of Digital Media for Women 2.0, an organization that helps women succeed in business ventures.
West was a corporate event planner who started Edible Events Company in 2013 in an attempt to bring cannabis-based cocktail parties into the mainstream. When she went public, advocating for cannabis usage on CNBC, she was fired from her “day job.” She collaborated with Hupp in 2014 to start Women Grow which she helped nurture for 2 years. In 2016, she left to start a cannabis glassware, travel and CBD business.
5. Supernova Women
In 2015, Amber E. Senter founded Supernova Women with Tsion “Sunshine” Lencho and Nina Parks. Andrea Unsworth came on board shortly thereafter. Recognizing the glaring omission of people of color in the cannabis industry, the 4 women of color vowed to offer education, advocacy and networking opportunities to women in the Bay Area.
Amber had a background in marketing and has started her own company, Leisure Life, which produces cannabis-infused popcorn.
6. Amanda Reiman, PhD, MSW
Chicago born Amanda Reiman is the California policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. Now based in San Francisco, she served as the first chairwoman of the Medical Cannabis Commission in Berkeley, CA. She regularly consults all over the country on the development of medical cannabis policy. She currently is a lecturer in the School of Social Work at UC Berkeley, teaching drug and alcohol policy, substance abuse treatment and sexuality and social work.
7. Nicole van Rensburg
Nicole is the CEO of Bloom Medicinals. Based in Boca Raton, FL, she started the company with her brother, Will Holland, in 2015. In just 5 short years, the company has expanded its operations to include cultivation centers, processing facilities and dispensaries in Missouri, a cultivation center and dispensary in Arkansas, and dispensaries in Maryland, Ohio and Utah.
For Nicole, it is all about helping the patients. Bloom Medicinals’ mission to provide the best care for patients was rewarded by elevating the company to that of one of the most recognizable brands in the medical cannabis industry. As a woman, it was not easy for Nicole to be accepted in the very male-dominated cannabis industry. However, she persisted and it paid off.
theroot.com, Meet The Supernova Women, Trailblazers for Equity in the Cannabis Industry, Jasmine Burnett, April 27, 2017.
marijuanamoment411.com, Dr. Christina Sanchez Discovers Anti-Cancer Properties in THC, April 15
time.com, This Is How March Became Women’s History Month, Julia Zorthian, updated March 1, 2018
royalqueenseeds.com, 8 of The Most Influential Women in The Cannabis Industry, Aug. 22, 2018