“I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy,” said Marie Curie when she accepted her Nobel Prizes at the turn of the twentieth century. Over one hundred years later, her spiritual successors find a lot to battle in the cannabis industry, as legal limits on research still pose problems. However, the opportunities for women in STEM are exploding, and the green frontiers of the magical plant are the most exciting Wonderland of all. Here are the Alices, the marvelous minds, spearheading the discoveries about to change our world as we know it. Curie and her daughters would be proud.
Dr. Junella “June” Chin remains one of the most fascinating medical practitioners in the cannabis space today. Her focus is integrative medicine, an area which examines health and wellness holistically and allows for alternative treatments such as cannabis to be worked into patients’ routines alongside traditional methods (pharmaceuticals, chemotherapy, etc). “Medical cannabis is not a silver bullet,” Chin says, but she has devoted her career to helping patients gain access to the plant after experiencing for herself the tremendous healing power of CBD. As a teenager growing up in the Bronx, Chin was diagnosed with the debilitating spinal disease ankylosis spondylitis and suffered from chronic pain to the point that she could barely stand while doing her rounds in medical school. An attending physician suggested she try cannabis oil, which completely transformed Chin’s life. She was able to manage her chronic pain and decided to practice first in California, which had legalized medical marijuana in 1996; over a decade later, she returned to New York once the state’s cannabis regulations became more open and exploratory. Currently the Chief Medical Advisor for the acclaimed online medical cannabis news source CannabisMD, New York’s Artemis CBD retail shop, the award-winning luxury CBD brand Saint Jane Beauty, and the renowned 1:1 brand Bloom Farms in addition to treating countless patients on both coasts, Chin is always in high demand for her expertise. She speaks at numerous international conferences and her work is featured on outlets including NBC’s Today Show, the New York Times, HuffPost, and more. Her book Cannabis & CBD for Health & Wellness, co-written with Ellementa founder and tech pioneer Aliza Sherman, was published in June 2019 to help mass audiences understand the basics of healthy living through cannabinoid regimens. We’ll take this doc’s advice any time!
*To learn more about June Chin, see our video interview for Honey Talks here!
The Knox Family
An entire family of MDs is changing the game on medical cannabis through integrative care. The amazing “Knox Docs,” as they are often called, are the founders of American Cannabinoid Clinics, an organization that educates patients on evidence-based cannabinoid treatment and aims to provide them with access to the best possible healthcare while simultaneously doing groundbreaking research that pushes further into the plant’s wellness capabilities than ever before. Dr. Janice Knox, matriarch of the family, had 35 years’ experience as an anesthesiologist when she was initially approached about writing prescriptions for medical cannabis. She realized she knew nothing about the plant as medicine, and delved into intense research of the human endocannabinoid system to uncover the truth. Opening the first American Cannabinoid Clinic in Portland, Oregon, Janice soon convinced her husband David, an emergency room physician for 38 years, to join her. As their daughters Rachel and Jessica completed dual-degree medical and MBA programs from Tufts University (with undergraduate degrees from Tufts and Harvard respectively), they too saw the value of the clinics, which had begun expanding from the original Portland location. It wasn’t long before Rachel and Jessica started working with their parents. Their scientific findings on the endocannabinoid system have been particularly significant to the Black community, in terms of both access to proper healthcare and in providing incredible role models. (Janice still recalls how few doctors of color were in the field when she did her residency at the University of Washington.) Today the Knox Docs are nationally renowned, speaking and sharing their research at conferences throughout the country. They are currently fundraising for Advent Academy, a formal education platform by which they can train other medical professionals in working with patients’ endocannabinoid systems. “I think of this entire industry as a do-over,” Rachel says. “Are we investing in the technologies for hemp [and higher-THC applications]? Are we thinking about how we can use that plant to help our ecosystem and improve our health that way? To me… it is all integrative.” And, Janice adds, it’s up to the women to lead this revolution. “Take your place,” she exhorts, “take your place.”
While earning her PhD in Cellular Biology from Howard University, Chanda Macias expressed to one of her professors that she’d like to study the effects of cannabis on health. At the time, the professor dismissed her request by stating, in effect, that cannabis was far too risky an area for a Black scientist to investigate. However, Macias knew she was on the trail of something big. After a career in biomedical research that led to breakthroughs in understanding the mechanism of prostate cancer metastasis to bone; oral care solutions and treatment options at Colgate-Palmolive Company; and becoming the Director of STEM Education at Howard’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences, she eventually circled back to what had first captured her attention. In 2015, Macias (or “Dr. Chanda,” as she is colloquially known) founded the National Holistic Healing Center (NHHC) in Washington, D.C., which was at the time only the second medical cannabis dispensary in the United States to be owned by a Black woman. Through NHHC, Dr. Chanda promotes education on ailment strain alignment, which pairs particular strains of cannabis to specific types of illnesses and pain for more effective treatment. Since joining the cannabis industry, Dr. Chanda has grown to be one of the most influential women in the space: She became the first Black CEO and Chair of Women Grow, the nation’s leading networking organization for professional women in cannabis, in 2018 and works tirelessly toward common-sense federal legislation reform as Vice Chair of the National Cannabis Roundtable Board. Most recently, Macias has helped form significant bedrock for Louisiana’s cannabis industry, by creating Ilera Holistic Healthcare in New Orleans as a sister organization to NHHC and establishing a partnership with The Southern University and A&M College, Louisiana’s oldest historically black university, for a groundbreaking hemp-derived CBD line. The university, which had begun collaborating with Ilera on a cannabis research program, earned an unprecedented milestone victory as the first HBCU to launch its own CBD product line – the brainchild of Dr. Chanda, who told Forbes, “As an alum of an HBCU, Howard University, I am truly humbled and proud to be part of this historic moment.” It’s clear that Dr. Chanda’s story is coming full-circle, though perhaps her greatest landmarks on our scientific understanding have yet to be known. But when she takes the risk, it’s a pretty safe bet the outcome is for humanity’s benefit.