Women have always been essential leaders in the cannabis movement - the plant is female, after all. But the numbers of women in executive positions at cannabis companies are suddenly rebounding for 2024 in ways that haven’t been seen in years. According to the latest data from the MJBiz Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Report, women now account for 39 percent of cannabis executives nationwide, a significant jump from the previous year’s 23 percent.
Who Are The Women Owners Of New York's State-Licensed Adult-Use Cannabis Retail Dispensaries?
We have to imagine that New York’s growing marketplace is contributing to that! The Empire State is filled with incredible women-owned businesses and brands. And now that more women than ever are consuming cannabis as well, let us spotlight the ladies running the hottest spots to shop for products. They come from many worlds - nonprofits, fashion, education, the legacy market, and a plethora of other arenas - but they share a passion for plant-based wellness that’s lifting all our spirits. Read on to meet the ganja goddesses of New York retail.
420 Bliss: Renee Lindo
Renee Lindo opened 420 Bliss, located on 740 Hoosick Road in Troy, as the first dispensary in the state’s Capital Region on December 7, 2023. She and her co-owners, Al Attoh and Gregg Little, have been friends for years before going into business together. The three of them have strong ties to the Troy community and their complementary backgrounds in retail, real estate, construction and the music industries contribute to a store atmosphere that positively swings. Lindo expresses a lot of gratitude for the New York Social Equity Fund that empowered her and her colleagues to launch the business without taking on outside investors, and looks forward to building 420 Bliss as a robust consumer-driven operation.
For more information, visit 420-bliss.com.
Air City Cannabis: Courtney Forester
Courtney Forester, owner and operator of the fashion boutique and independent women’s clothing store I-Candies, launched Air City Cannabis on October 13, 2023. Located in Rome, the delivery-only business is the first licensed cannabis retailer in New York’s Mohawk Valley. Forester, known to friends as Lady Ambitious, is excited to curate premium cannabis products for consumers and has noted that a more fully-built immersive retail space will soon be on the horizon. The dedicated mom and cultural innovator explains her mission-driven philosophy: “Doesn’t matter what cloth you were cut from, doesn’t matter who you used to be. Only thing that matters is what [you’re] striving to do next in this journey called life and who you impact while doing so. Not everyone is given a fair chance, so it’s up to you to choose another path and create a new way of thinking so your children can have that chance handed to them.”
For more information, visit aircitycannabis.com.
Dagmar Cannabis: Jennifer Tzar
Jennifer Tzar has lived a million lives, with a journey taking her from a generational family farm in Minnesota to the farthest reaches of science, to photojournalism shooting for outlets such as Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Interview, to styling for cultural icons including David Bowie, Ozzy Osbourne, and Snoop Dogg. As CEO and Creative Director of Dagmar, which opened in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood on December 15, 2023, the multihyphenate entrepreneur brings all her experiences full-circle. During the store’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Tzar relayed the story of how her foray into legacy cannabis - making connections between California cultivators and New York consumers and suppliers - got her arrested over a decade ago on the very block where her dispensary now stands. She designed Dagmar, located at 412 West Broadway, specifically to stimulate consumers’ creativity, basing the store’s aesthetic on turn-of-the-century apothecaries elevated to the most luxurious caliber. With a gorgeous layout and staff uniforms created by a former Christian Dior and Halston designer, it’s fair to say Tzar has given the Big Apple its most exciting bite yet at high fashion in cannabis.
Find out more at dagmarcannabis.com.
Good Grades: Extasy James
Extasy James made headlines when she launched Good Grades at 162-03 Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica, Queens - the first licensed dispensary to open in the borough. The grand opening on March 30, 2023 featured an appearance from Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr., who praised James for creating a space focused on community healing. James and her co-owner, attorney Michael James Jr., are known as “the Cannabis Cousins” and are dedicated to bringing cannabis excellence to their childhood neighborhood. Having the opportunity to make milestones in the legal cannabis market is a blessing for James, whose father was deported due to a cannabis conviction. Of the Good Grades mission, she says, “We are incredibly passionate about providing greater access to cannabis and breaking down the barriers that prevent so many people, especially those from marginalized communities, from experiencing the benefits of this amazing plant.”
Find out more at goodgradesnyc.com.
Gotham: Joanne Wilson
Joanne Wilson is known as a New York tech maven, responsible for the funding of innovative startups through her investment fund Gotham Gal Ventures. Having supported over 100 companies since the early 2000s, and becoming notable as one of the first major investors to focus on women-owned businesses, Wilson definitely knows how to manifest a vision. She says that Gotham, located at 3 East 3rd Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is the culmination of the dream she’s had for years: A store that offers comfort, familiarity, and a little sense of excitement too. Since the dispensary’s opening on May 11, 2023, that’s exactly what consumers find inside. Natural yet luxurious decor beckons you in, while various goods (many from women-led brands) offer reasons to stay awhile. Wilson describes her approach as “Colette for cannabis,” invoking not the audacious French author, but the once-sensational high-end coffee shop. Sophisticated cannabis is the way of the future, ne c’est pas?
Find out more information at gotham.nyc.
Gotham Buds: Malika Bellamy
Malika Bellamy grew up as a natural storyteller, which is why communications remains her domain today. As one of four owners of Gotham Buds, Harlem’s first licensed dispensary (her co-founders are Omar Tejada, Jeffrey Lopez, and Gregory Gray Sr.), Bellamy serves as Vice President of Communications and Media. Her gift for gab has taken this New York native across the country; she’s worked on marketing strategy and public relations for brands such as Estee Lauder, Moet Hennessy, and other high-end companies. She brings this aesthetic sensibility to Gotham Buds, which opened on October 18, 2023 at 248 West 125th Street. As the team describes on the store’s website, “Our luxury fashion, merch, and music brings together the best of all 3 worlds, offering a one–of–a–kind experience for the discerning cannabis enthusiast. From haute couture to cutting–edge accessories, we have something for everyone. And with our exclusive music offerings, you can shop till you drop to the beat of the latest in premium New York music.”
For more information, visit gothambudsny.com.
Purple Owl Dispensary: Beth Smith
Beth Smith’s background as an elementary school teacher might surprise people in her hometown of Mount Vernon. But part of her mission in launching Purple Owl Dispensary, which opened on January 11, 2024 was to change people’s perspectives. Smith, who manages the store with co-owner Juan Alverio, says delivery is just the beginning. She and her staff, which consist primarily of her son and his friends, have been hard at work managing all the orders in their temporary delivery location. They will soon move to a permanent retail store in White Plains.
For more information, thepurpleowldispensary.com.
Statis Cannabis: Emely Chavez
Emely Chavez also comes to the cannabis sector with a history of education; the co-founder of Statis Cannabis works as a schoolteacher in Bergen County, New Jersey. Though she and her husband Christian Chavez, the CEO of the company, live in the Garden State, they’re originally from New York and so is their business partner Angel Turuseta, a Bronx native. Statis, located at 817 East Tremont Avenue, has the distinction of being the first dispensary opened in the borough. During its debut on July 6, 2023, Chavez spoke about her plan to ensure the store would give back to the community, something that the company has implemented ever since.
For more information, visit statiscannabis.com.
The Emerald Dispensary: Christina De Giovanni
Christina De Giovanni, founder and CEO of The Emerald™ Media Group, has crafted an internationally-recognized media platform with a dedicated focus on promoting the responsible use of cannabis and fervently advocating for its decriminalization. Her opening of The Emerald™ Dispensary at 85 Suydam Street in Brooklyn on January 16, 2024 fulfilled a dream that has been nearly a lifetime in the making. The longtime cannabis consumer and advocate got her journalism degree in the heart of California’s Emerald Triangle region, endured a federal raid and ensuing cannabis charges in her early 20s, and was inspired to share the stories of others who survived traumatic injustices in the War on Drugs. De Giovanni and The Emerald™ stand as a transformative force in cannabis culture and media, boasting not only a remarkable track record of accomplishments in print and digital coverage, but also a testament to what visionary leadership can achieve. The Emerald™ Dispensary is an immersive culmination of that vision that continues to put sisterhood and community first.
For more information, visit theemeralddispensary.com.
The Highest Peak: Aurora Wood And Kinsey LaPointe
Aurora Wood and Kinsey LaPointe, co-founders of The Highest Peak, launched the only women-owned dispensary in the North Country on December 7, 2023. Located at 25 Market Street in Potsdam, the business is dedicated to dismantling the stigmas around cannabis. Wood comes from a background in hospitality and real estate, owner of a home construction company. The pair emphasize the North Country’s community in everything they do with The Highest Peak, which features work from local artists throughout the store. On their website, they encourage visitors to contact and commission the artists if they are inspired by what they see. Community engagement programs will be forthcoming as Wood and LaPointe ramp up retail operations with their team.
For more information, visit highestpeakny.com.
The Travel Agency (Formerly Union Square Travel Agency): Arana Hankin-Biggers
Arana Hankin-Biggers, President and co-founder of The Travel Agency: A Cannabis Store (formerly known as Union Square Travel Agency), believes the opportunity to innovate in New York’s legal marketplace is once in a lifetime. Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs (her grandmother’s cousin was the first Black woman in the state to be granted a liquor store license), she has worked for over 15 years as a certified Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) operator, building ventures across diverse arenas in real estate development and economic policy. The Travel Agency, created in a partnership of Hankin-Biggers’ Harbour Community and nonprofit organization The Doe Fund, was the third licensed adult-use dispensary to launch in New York, opening at a pop-up location in Union Square on February 13, 2023. Some months later, a full buildout was completed at the store’s permanent location at 835 Broadway, featuring the first-of-its-kind Flower Lounge - a dedicated space where customers can learn about terpenes and cannabinoids. This week, The Travel Agency opens its second branch at 118-122 Flatbush Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn. Proceeds from products sold at both stores benefit The Doe Fund, which provides job training and resources to end homelessness and recidivism in New York and abroad. Known for its wide, varied and consistently entertaining approach to community support (plus celebrity fans like Amy Sedaris and Sarah Silverman), The Travel Agency has become one of the Empire State’s most notable retail brands. As Hankin-Biggers says, “To be in cannabis, you have to be a jack of all trades.”
For more information, visit thetravelagency.co.
Which women leaders in cannabis do you think we should spotlight? Hit us up at @honeysucklemagazine on Instagram and @HoneysuckleMag on Twitter!
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Featured image: Left: Gotham Buds co-owner Malika Bellamy; right: Dagmar Cannabis owner Jennifer Tzar (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture