BY MARIE LODI
In 2014, the same year that cannabis legalization passed in Colorado, Women Grow was born. The for-profit organization was created with the mission of connecting, cultivating, and empowering women in the cannabis industry, encouraging education and professional leadership. Since its launch, over 50,000 members (including both men and women) from across the U.S. and Canada have attended the organization’s professional networking events and leadership summits. This year, the organization will expand into new markets across the country, launch fresh initiatives, and add to its board of managers.
Before Chanda Macias, Women Grow’s CEO and chairwoman of the board, joined the cannabis industry, she was a research scientist, extensively studying different types of cancers. After spending time in Africa for several months in 2007, Macias learned about different healing plants used by the local communities there, which fueled an interest in cannabis medicine. In 2015, she opened the National Holistic Healing Center in Washington D.C.
She joined Women Grow in 2016, becoming a market leader in D.C. the following year. “I was looking for a community of like-minded people to who understood the dynamics of being a woman, wife, mother, and entrepreneur in an industry racked by misinformation and stigma,” Macias says. “The support I found was invaluable, which made me want to actively be a part of the solution through becoming more involved within the organization itself.”
During her time at Women Grow, Macias says the main thing she’s learned about the industry is how quickly things can change. “Regulatory developments, cannabis science and social attitudes about the plant have evolved at such a breakneck pace that being on top of it all can feel like a full-time job,” she says. That’s exactly why one of Women Grow’s main objectives is to educate its community. “We keep our members up to date and informed about the latest developments that impact their lifestyle and businesses, and provide opportunities to interface with key decision-makers who can address shifting developments in real time,” Macias explains.
While there has certainly been progress in the cannabis industry since Women Grow’s inception, there is still a lot that needs to be done. Macias hopes to see social justice measures and outreach to communities of color incorporated more within the industry. To wit: Women Grow recently partnered with Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn to host the first faith-based cannabis summit in the U.S., called “The Business of Cannabis.” Experts from around the country flew in to educate attendees on a variety of topics such as acquiring a cultivation or dispensary license, careers in cannabis and hemp, equity, social justice and policy reform, self-care, community wellness, and integration of cannabis and hemp in the medical field. “The church holds such an important place in communities of color, we felt it was important to take our message of social justice, healthcare alternatives, equity, and inclusion directly to the people most impacted by the war on drugs,” Macias says.
Macias is motivated by what she’s witnessed cannabis do for people throughout her years in the industry. “Seeing the people I serve through Women Grow and National Holistic achieve true healing and have an improved quality of life through education and entrepreneurship inspires my work everyday.”