Concept and production by Ronit Pinto; photography by Sam C. Long; creative direction by Cat Ouellette

They are ganja mamas, ladies of the leaf, high priestesses of hemp. The women of the East Coast legacy market come from widely divergent walks of life and each has a different perspective on what led her to connect with the plant. For some, health and wellness became the ultimate calling. Others expanded their artistic prowess with the green goddess as their muse. But they all dedicated themselves to serving the community through top-quality cannabis products, enduring the risks as they did so. These are some of the entrepreneurs who defied the odds, challenged the law, put their safety and livelihoods on the line for a higher power of love and justice. Our heroines gave everything so that we could vibe. Now as the legacy-to-legal transition takes place across the region, they face an uncertain but still hopeful future. We elevate them here to share glimpses into their realities and what empowers them to stay in this business. It’s not for the faint of heart. But to all the women we’ve loved before, for helping us grow, we owe a lot, we know - ‘cause girls is players too.

What Are East Coast Women Leaders Saying About Cannabis And Their Daily Lives?

Pari Patel, Founder, Farmacy NYC

“I lift weights every morning and use cannabis as my pre-workout. That's a stoner repping 135 squat and 300+ lb hip thrust after a joint to the face… [In addition to my cannabis work], I am a former staffer on Capitol Hill. I have great passion for policy and social justice. I was a Health Policy Fellow for Congresswoman [Yvette] Clarke of Brooklyn and Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III of Massachusetts.”

Leona Kusa, Founder, Kusa Collective

“If you asked me back in my pageant days how I could achieve world peace, I would tell you cannabis. Our events are the closest thing I’ve seen firsthand to world peace. A room full of people ages 21 to 70, all colors, sizes and genders talking about positivity, future, and the plant. I’m a fighter. But a fighter for peace."

Amy Chin, Founder, Calm Better Days

“My goal is to normalize plant medicine, mental health, and moms consuming the plant. I believe by educating and having conversations around these topics, we’ll normalize it. I also feel great joy when I hear from my clients that they are feeling much better.”

Lauren Forsch, Founder, Popped.NYC

“We have great CBD products, but that business is not sustainable for us. Although the industry and our clients know us as low-key, we got busted in December. OCM officials raided our store and left us with no strategy forward. Working with Dasheeda Dawson, Founding Director of Cannabis NYC, Popped is poised as the office’s case study for the BYOC model. The NYC cannabis game is finally on! We welcome cannapreneurs, woman-owned businesses, canna-moms, and everyone who loves us, especially creatives.”

Melissa Gibson, Founder, Hemp & Humanity

“I founded Hemp & Humanity, my whole hemp retail shop, in 2016. My daily activities working there - curating products (over 40 women-led brands), educating and empowering consumers, destigmatizing the plant, consulting to match consumers with the best products and protocols for them.”

Jas Ohh, Founder, Buddy Bakes NYC

“If I had to describe my journey in cannabis, it would say: ‘Eat responsibly.’ My goal is to create foods that are made with good intentions and ingredients. Representing for plant-based foods that are made for YOU to be in control.”

Meet The East Coast Women In Legacy

Miriam Aristy-Farer, Founder, Herbas Bodycare

Miriam Aristy-Farer champions a plant-based and cannabis-friendly lifestyle that is both sustainable and accessible for the Latinx community in her neighborhood of West Harlem. A branding, sustainable design and beauty industry expert who is also a medical cannabis patient, she founded the plant-based CBD bodycare company Herbas using herbal practices that have been part of her family traditions for generations. Before immigrating to New York, Miriam’s parents lived in farming communities in the Dominican Republic, which she often visits. Her heritage laid the foundation for her gardening and inspired her to remain in her Harlem neighborhood where she could give back to the local Latinx community. She makes all of her small-batch products by hand and prioritizes the availability of cannabis education and dosing cards in both English and Spanish. Miriam is well known as a community leader for her advocacy in education and equity issues; she currently serves on Manhattan’s Community Board 9, chairing the Health and Environment Committee and is a member of the Youth and Education Committee. Previously Miriam was President of the Community Education Council for District 6, representing 24 elementary and middle public schools in West Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood. She is also the Vice President of New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights and lead plaintiff in the organization’s case against the State of New York, which builds upon a landmark ruling that the state's school finance system under-funded New York City public schools and denied its students their constitutional right. Miriam continues to be an advocate for justice in all its forms.

Amy Chin, Founder, Calm Better Days

Amy Chin is the founder of Calm Better Days, a cannabis and CBD consultancy company that educates and guides her clients toward their custom CBD regimens. Amy's career has spanned across different industries, from the retail world with experience in buying and merchandising, to hospitality. In 2019, Amy decided to turn towards entrepreneurship and founded Calm Better Days. Through CBD education and events, Amy is seeking to educate the consumer.

"I am a mom of two girls," Amy says, "so I don't have a lot of time for hobbies besides cannabis. I love going to cannabis events and connecting with the community; that fills my heart... Right now, I'm enjoying life and incorporating more self-care. I'm finding that by practicing more self-care, I'm finding my true self, and it's helping me emotionally grow and be a happier person. Cannabis is of course a big part of that self-care routine."

Lauren Forsch, Founder, Popped.NYC

Lauren Forsch is the founder of Popped.NYC, a cannabis lifestyle and wellness brand. Popped is well known for its skincare products, particularly the signature CBD body butter that first made the brand a hit with the East Coast market. A proud canna mom, Lauren is committed to bringing education, mindfulness, healing and happiness to customers by creating the best products, providing educational and social opportunities and keeping up to date with trends, research and other news. She is a founding member of the Get Shit Done collective for female entrepreneurs, where women can network and scale their businesses for generational impact.

Lauren invites those curious about CBD wellness to visit the Popped.NYC store on the Lower East Side, where events are hosted throughout the week ranging from open mic and comedy nights to fitness and health education sessions.

Melissa Gibson, Founder, Hemp & Humanity

In 2015, 50+ USA Snowboarding Champion Melissa Gibson finally found relief from her multiple autoimmune conditions when she was introduced to a hemp-derived compound called CBD. After her health improved drastically, Melissa created Hemp & Humanity, a quadruple bottom line company which provides education about hemp-derived products. In an unregulated, and often confusing marketplace, Melissa knew there was a need for a trusted source, so she consciously curated a collection that folks can rely on to optimize their health. Hemp & Humanity is dedicated to harnessing the power of hemp to improve the human condition.

With an Economics degree from Cornell University, an MBA from the University of Georgia, and experience in branding and market research for national corporations, Melissa has been addressing the needs of smaller businesses and entrepreneurs since 1991, when she started her consulting firm New In Town. Bringing “big box” solutions to “small box” ventures, Melissa created award-winning, breakthrough marketing programs that built brand equity, generated significant incremental income and profits, and gave her clients a competitive edge. With a desire for deeper impact, and to reflect her purpose, Melissa’s work evolved to place emphasis on areas of personal interest: female entrepreneurship, sustainability, wellness, localism, collaboration, and social enterprise. She has carried all these values into Hemp & Humanity, part of her hemp consultancy Qple LLC, which also serves as a business development and brand strategy consultant for emerging hemp brands.

This spring, Melissa was named as one of amNY and Politics NY's 2023 Cannabis Industry Power Players (see Honeysuckle founder Ronit Pinto on the list as well!). Melissa invites those curious about cannabis education to visit the Hemp & Humanity store in Woodstock, New York.

Maya Hayashi, Co-Founder and Owner, Cafe Cannal

Cafe Cannal, New York's first CBD cafe and lounge, is a cornerstone for the cannabis community. Led by Maya Hayashi, Cafe Cannal was founded by Hayashi and Chef Anwuli Obidi. As they state on the business's website: "We go to great lengths to source with integrity, partnering only with growers that are committed to the same values that we are. The generational hemp and coffee farmers, the growers, the artisans, and the bakers. The foodies, the green juice lovers, the coffee aficionados and the weekend brunches. The vision starts with you, our city, and our community. Our fundamental mission is to provide a welcoming space of total inclusivity, acceptance, and to curate a more enjoyable and social alternative for our cannabis community. We are a community of survivors, ambassadors, and agents of change, bent on undoing the damage of Reefer Madness."

Cafe Cannal works exclusively with their partners at Afficionado Roasters to deliver quality blends of artisan coffee beans. Their high-grade and specialty coffee comes straight from Colombia and Brazil and is ethically sourced and carefully produced. To ensure that they’re following legal guidelines, Cafe Cannal only carries trusted CBD brands that follow FDA regulations regarding Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). The trusted CBD brands promote the quality and safety of their products with Organic Certifications granted by third-party laboratories.

Leona Kusa, Founder, Kusa Collective

Leona Kusa is the founder of the woman-owned, family-run legacy brand Kusa Collective, based in New York. A Long Island native, Leona is a canna mom and former Miss New York competitor who devotes herself to sharing plant medicine education with others. Kusa Collective sets the framework to end prohibition; products are available from Brooklyn to Montauk.

Jas Ohh, Founder, Buddy Bakes NYC

A pastry chef specializing in vegan baked goods, Jas Ohh operates Buddy Bakes NYC - a catering brand that is both small-batch and high-living. Using plant science and organically sourced foods, Buddy Bakes provides artisan infused delectables that are inclusive of all diets. Products are vegan and gluten-free, with an emphasis on each bite being able to deliver sustenance, comfort, pleasure, and positive energy. As the company motto - and Jas's own mantra - goes, "Eat responsibly!"

Pari Patel, Founder, Farmacy NYC

Based in New York, Pari Patel is a medical cannabis advocate and cultivator who grew up with the legacy of generations of Indian farmers. She believes that horticulture is part of her heritage, as is the cannabis plant. First learning about cannabis in the context of the plant's significance in Hindu tradition, she is enthusiastic and committed in the care of her personal homegrown cannabis. Pari encourages cultivators to learn about and incorporate living soil, no-till organic practices, and permaculture into their work.

Krys Wolf, Founder, Wolf Stoner Queen

You haven’t truly smoked like a New Yorker until you’ve tried one of Wolf Stoner Queen’s rolls. The content creator and artisan roller is a staple of the Five Boroughs’ cannabis scene. She has rolled and created an amazing array of custom blunts and joints, including for celebrities such as RAW founder Josh Kesselman. You can find her showcasing her skills for your smoking pleasure at events around the East Coast, particularly those hosted by women-owned brand TribeTokes or in her role as an ambassador for the lifestyle brand Happy Munkey. Check out her standout artistic works and tips for smoking at @wolf_stoner_queen on Instagram.

Pat Wright, Founder, PDUBZHighBevz

Patricia "Pat" Wright is a longtime cannabis educator and community advocate. Creator of the beverage line PDUBZHighBevz, she is well known in East Coast cannabis for her advocacy efforts and event coordination, in her various roles as co-founder of the Women of Color in Cannabis collective (pronounced "WOKE" and formed with Shaloma "Lo.W" Wagstaffe in 2018) and as Community Outreach Coordinator for the educational organization Cannaware.

A version of this article was originally published in Honeysuckle's 16th print edition. Click here to get your copy now!

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Photographer: Sam C. Long @tissuekulture

Concept and Production: Ronit Pinto @honey_ronit

Creative Director: Cat Ouellette @catouellette

Camera Assist: Xhaxi Danzeng @otro_tashi

Camera Assist: Ren Haas @rennhaas

Production Assist/Words: Jaime Lubin @jaimelubin

Location: The Astor Club @astorclubnyc


Featured image: Left to right: Amy Chin, Miriam Aristy-Farer, Lauren Forsch, Maya Hayashi, Leona Kusa, Melissa Gibson, Krys Wolf, Pat Wright, Jas Ohh, Pari Patel (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture