As we have highlighted in previous blogs, the issue of cannabis reform is one that acutely affects women. From mothers treating their children with medical cannabis to female executives seeking equal opportunities in a burgeoning industry, women are undeniably at the forefront of the movement for fairer cannabis legislation. Here, we profile some inspiring women activists who are moving mountains to advance the cause.
Co-founder of MCC (Cannabis Catalan Movement) and REMA (Network of Anti-prohibitionist Spanish Women), Ana Afuera is one of Europe’s leading cannabis activists. Based in Spain, she helps coordinate campaigns in the name of fairer cannabis policies on both a national and international level.
Currently serving as an executive member of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD), she collaborates with hundreds of organisations from across the continent to bring about reform. Thanks to her tireless efforts, crucial conversations regarding the rights of female cannabis users – as well as pot users in general – are now taking place at the governmental level.
Commissioner-At-Large of the Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission and founding member of the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition, Chaney Turner is among North America’s most influential cannabis activists. She has founded several social equity brands and businesses within her local community, including Town Biz Oakland and The People’s Dispensary, both of which promote cannabis culture and policy reform.
Her larger plan is to promote inclusivity and social equity within the growing legal cannabis market, which is why she founded Beyond Equity in 2020. Committed to fighting for tax and policy changes, the organisation seeks to ensure that those most affected by the harms of prohibition are given the means and opportunities to participate in the growing legal market.
For some, business is all about profit, yet for Shinnecock Indian Nation tribal member Chenae Bullock, the opportunity to head up a tribal-owned cannabis company represents a chance to bring about change. As managing director of Little Beach Harvest, Bullock ensures that the financial gains generated by the business are circulated within her community.
Based in Southampton, New York, the company provides employment opportunities for Shinnecock members and boosts the local tribal economy. A vertically-integrated firm with licenses for cultivation and retail, Little Beach Harvest is more than just a business – it’s a symbol for social equity and a shining example of inclusivity within the cannabis sphere.
Along with her mother Janice and sister Jessica, Rachel Knox has founded several influential organisations. Among these is Doctors Knox, which provides education on the benefits of medical cannabis.
Knox is also co-founder and president of the Cannabis Health Equity Movement (CHEM) and chair of the Association for Cannabis Health Equity and Medicine (ACHEM), both of which advocate for a more inclusive medical cannabis landscape. On top of that, she sits on the national board of organisations such as the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine (AACM) and the US Cannabis Council.
Hailing from the so-called First Family of cannabis, Rachel Knox is one of the world’s most respected medical professionals within the field, and uses her platform to help promote social justice within medical cannabis.
A long-time proponent of fairer drug laws, Indian-American attorney Shaleen Title is one of the most well-known and respected cannabis activists in the US. She was appointed to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission in 2017, and plays a crucial role in regulating the state’s legal weed market and firmly advocates for restorative social justice within the industry.
Title is also the co-founder and CEO of the Parabola Center, a think tank which assists governments and organisations in constructing drug laws that protect people rather than profits. A regular keynote speaker at conferences and events, she also contributes to leading media outlets worldwide and is one of the most influential voices calling for cannabis policy reform.
Sierra Riddle took on the medical establishment and child protection services after her son Landon was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of two. Doctors had prescribed a four-year course of chemotherapy, yet after the treatment caused Landon to become violently ill, his mother turned to medical cannabis.
Doing so required Sierra and Landon to move from Utah to Colorado, where medical cannabis was legal. Even there, though, the authorities threatened to remove Landon from his mother’s custody once they discovered that she had stopped giving him his chemotherapy drugs. However, Sierra eventually convinced local doctors and social services that Landon’s health had returned thanks to her actions, and that cannabis was all he needed to take.
Following this victory, Sierra became one of the nation’s leading cannabis activists. She has testified in court regarding the plant’s medicinal benefits and campaigned for the legalisation of medical cannabis in Utah and beyond.
Widely known for her environmentalism and human rights activism, Winona LaDuke has twice been nominated by the Green Party to run for Vice President of the United States. As executive director and co-founder of Honor The Earth, she campaigns for Native rights and fights to ensure that Native American land claims are upheld.
LaDuke also runs a 40-acre hemp farm on the White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota and aims to create a new, sustainable economy that respects the environment and empowers Native tribes. By growing hemp as an alternative to fossil fuels, she says that Native communities can become self-reliant for clothing, fuel, and most other commodities typically derived from petroleum.
Dubbed the Indigenous Green New Deal, this vision for a renewable, decentralised economic system underlines the enormous potential that cannabis holds for creating a better and fairer world.
Having previously worked on developing alternatives to animal testing within the cosmetics industry, Yewande Okuleye now dedicates her time to fighting for social equity and cannabis reform. As the founder and CEO of Black Medical Cannabis Alliance, she works with academics, medical professionals and business executives to help create a fairer and more inclusive cannabis industry.
Regularly lecturing at universities and appearing on television and radio debates, Okuleye is fast becoming one of the UK’s most influential cannabis activists. Her ultimate goal is to provide a platform for the black community to overcome the trauma of prohibition and share in the benefits of legalisation.
Mexico is on the cusp of legalising cannabis, and no one has fought harder than Zara Snapp to ensure that the forthcoming legislation offers a fair deal to the country’s marginalised and victimised communities. As co-founder of the drug policy campaign group Instituto RIA, Snapp pressures and advises policymakers into passing laws that promote social justice. Above all, she ensures that vital conversations regarding opportunities for women and indigenous communities are not overlooked.
On an international level, she has formed part of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which brings together leading public figures to advocate for an end to prohibition and the creation of new policies based on scientific evidence and human rights.