Cannabis Science Conference Spring 2024: Keynote Speakers Allison Justice, PhD and Riley Kirk, PhD Discuss Women in the Cannabis Industry

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Columns | <b>Cannabis Voices</b>

Keynote presenters Drs. Allison Justice and Riley Kirk share how they have seen women effect change in the cannabis industry.

In honoring Women’s History Month, Cannabis Science Conference (CSC) Spring keynote speakers Drs. Allison Justice and Riley Kirk discuss the various roles of women in the cannabis industry, how they connect with each other, and the education they provide.

Dr. Justice conducts photobiology research and co-founded the Hemp Mine, an innovative hemp farm and product manufacturer. Dr. Kirk is a natural product chemist with a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences. She has previously presented on ongoing cannabis education and psychedelics at Cannabis Science Conference Fall 2023. Their keynote presentation at CSC in Kansas City, Missouri May 7–9, 2024, will bring us on a deep dive into their experiment, the Science of Smokeability (SOS), a multiphase experiment into the variables that contribute to the cannabis smoking experience.

Check out the video, read a snippet of the discussion below, and register here for Cannabis Science Conference Spring 2024!


Here, Drs. Justice and Kirk discuss their insights on women in the cannabis industry:

Allison Justice: So for me, growing up in a very male dominated industry—agriculture, horticulture—it's kind of been the norm. And cannabis being also agriculture, horticulture, it's always been in that realm of being male dominated. But what's been really cool for me to see, especially the past two years or so, is the community of women in this industry, that have come together on social media platforms, which was really kind of being that union for us. All with similar backgrounds, education, and just being a method to work together. Really, what's brought Riley and I together is ultimately connecting on Instagram and Tik Tok and whatnot, and saying, “oh, yeah, you like this, you do this? Well, let's get together and do something together.” And that's really where the SOS speared from is us women getting together and wanting to cause a bigger change.

Riley Kirk: I couldn't agree more, I was going say the same thing. When I go on social media…I am just always absolutely amazed by the educational skills that women have in this industry. And they're absolutely dominating the research and the education fields of cannabis specifically. I think a lot of that, as Allison saying, is we come from these male dominated fields. I was in academia before I was in the cannabis industry and Allison was in horticulture, and it's very male dominated, and that just kind of the norm. When we moved to cannabis, we really want to use our voices to boost each other up, because we've seen what happens when we don't have that luxury, essentially. An example is, with my podcast: if I am looking for an expert to talk on something, I am always going to look for a woman to speak on it, or some other marginalized community. And I often do still have men and that's totally fine—they are experts and they're great communicators, too. But there's so many women who are also just amazing at what they do, and they don't have the opportunity to show their voice in that way. So that's definitely a huge part of it.

And then I think another part is the cannabis plant. The part that we use is the female plant. It is like we're embracing femininity every single day, when we talk about this plant, and we talk about the beauty, we talk about the medicinal power. Women have always been healers in our society, that has often been the role of women in our society. I think that's really obvious in cannabis, because healing is not just, here's a drug. It's more of the nurturing, the empathy, the listening, treating people as a whole, treating the plant as a whole, and seeing where that intersection happens, and what other wellness tools and life skills can we learn to really embrace wellness and healing in ways other than just selling a product or pushing a drug. That's what women continue to be so good at, and it just shines in this industry so well.