As 2021 comes to a close we wanted to showcase the Canadian women leading the cannabis industry. We’ve covered the industry from a variety of angles and misogyny is rampant. Misconceptions persist about a woman’s ability to lead or even participate in the cannabis industry. To help fight those misconceptions we present here a short list of Canadian women leading cannabis. By no means is this list exhaustive and it is far from complete. The women presented below impressed our team in some measure over the past year but our field of view ranges only so far. Do you know of someone worth a shout out? Comment below!
As the CEO of Atlanticann, Christine Halef uses all of her business acumen and leadership experience to guide the strategy of one of Canada’s few Indigenous-owned licensed cannabis producers. Project management, commercial real estate and corporate finance are all skills Halef accumulated throughout her professional life but her work as pharmacist is what really turned her towards cannabis. Her old pharmacy in Halifax, Nova Scotia shared a wall with a pain clinic.
“Every prescription was a narcotic, an opioid,” Halef said. “I would see very well-respected professional individuals’ lives fall apart because they were so addicted.”
Research began piling up about the effectiveness of treating pain with cannabis instead of opiods. Halef planned to serve a medical market at first but patients didn’t materialize in the numbers necessary to keep her facility competitive so she began pursuing recreational cannabis as well. This led her to help create the brand now known as Msiku, which won the New Brunswick Cannabis Cup awards for Best in Grow and Best Experience for their ICC x Kush Mints 11 pheno. To read more about Msiku and Halef check out Volume 2.
Entrepreneurship is in Lauren Tansley’s DNA. Earlier in her life she made thousands of dollars reselling used IKEA furniture on eBay. Later she paid a programmer to scrape a website for marketing contacts and resold those for a profit. When it came to cannabis she wanted to open her own store but Ontario’s lottery system didn’t play in her favour right away. Although she did help another retail store open, Tansley realized she’d need another angle if she wanted to start her own cannabis business. The problem she decided to solve was important but often overlooked.
“Ouidblends is for people who want to smoke but don’t want to get too high,” Tansley says. “Truth, I was just getting too high all the time.”
Rebecca Tull would tell you she’s nothing special but the humble mother of three from London Ontario is the creative and entrepreneurial mind behind Lifted Leaf Adult Colouring Book. Available on Amazon, this simple fun book is a great way to keep your mind focused and blank all at the same time.
“I start with the cannabis leaf as the core concept in my work and then incorporate all the other art styles and flowers that I’m missing by not being a florist anymore.”
Stash includes a page from Tull’s work in every issue for your colouring pleasure but make sure you follow her on Instagram as she often runs contests and giveaways.
Although we haven’t spoken with Vivianne Wilson directly, we featured Greenport – her cannabis retail store in Toronto – as part of our “Now Open” series in Volume 3. Wilson is the first woman of colour to own a cannabis business in Canada. She uses her platform and her space to educate others about the healing properties of cannabis.
“Our first goal is not to sell you products. Our first goal is to make you feel like you’re a part of something,” Wilson told NOW Toronto in March.
Until we write something about Wilson we recommend you read the article in NOW Toronto.
As one of the owners of Collective Growers, Karen Nguyen educates customers and staff regularly on cannabis. Having worked in the industry since before recreational sales became legal, Nguyen brings project management, marketing and sales expertise to the growing list of retail stores in the Collective Growers stable.
You can read more about her in Volume 3’s “Now Open” section.
Myrna Gillis is the steady hand helming Aqualitas, one of the best licensed producers in the Canadian cannabis market. As CEO she’s overseen every aspect of the organic production facility in Brookfield, Nova Scotia. She’s a former lawyer but is as disarming as they come. Read her bio on the Cannabis Council website and remember to pick up your jaw when you’re done.
As the founder of the Terps Not Terfs brand Andrea Flowers brought her everyday activism on behalf of the trans community into the cannabis sphere. Just like high quality cannabis, Flowers’ apparel is released in small batches and based on pre-orders alone (for now).
Based in British Columbia, Brit Burlonee is one half of the Instagram account known as @kindof.high. Cannabis enthusiasts can always depend on Burlonee’s bright, balanced and keen eye to show us the best side of almost any strain. Her work encouraging discussion on a wide range of topics from physical health to consumption habits make cannabis a more inclusive and welcoming space for everyone. Look for her work in our upcoming Volume 4.