There’s a women empowerment movement sweeping the globe and its visible in every industry. Women are confidently taking on jobs usually reserved for men and are transcending societal limits, while redefining their roles and influence.
The voices and opinions of women matter more today than any other time in recent history, and that is particularly true in the cannabis industry.
The women highlighted below are not to be considered the most important women in the local industry, but instead represent the cadre of female leaders defining their legacy in the process of helping to create a world-class Jamaican cannabis industry.
JOAN ‘NANOOK’ WEBLEY
PRESIDENT, ITOPIA LIFE LTD
Joan ‘Nanook’ Webley is an attorney, cultural activist, and one of the youngest executives in the cannabis industry. As president of Itopia Life, a vertically integrated cannabis company based in Kingston, she oversees production at the company’s 80-acre property in St Ann and is preparing to launch its first retail outlet at 10A West Kings House Rd.
Webley has a particular penchant for intellectual property (IP) and helping Jamaicans understand the value of and maximise Brand Jamaica in a cultural and cannabis context.
She is a former copyright manager at the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office and has completed advanced IP asset training from the World Intellectual Property Organisation.
Having lived in five different countries, it reinforced to her the strength of Brand Jamaica, and in 2012, she founded Nanook, a creative hub for musicians, film-makers, and artists.
Her passion for leaving her mark on Jamaica’s cultural landscape led her to ganja, where she consulted for various companies looking to capitalise on Jamaica’s new medical cannabis industry. She was subsequently offered the opportunity to lead one of Jamaica’s first licensed producers and says she is excited to share with the public, Itopia’s interpretation of what plant medicine, culture, and self-empowerment through education looks like when combined.
“I recognise the value of what we have here, and I am eager to see us believe in and benefit from our culture,” said Webley.
ADVOCATE, CULTIVATOR, ENTREPRENEUR
Kathie Lennon could very well be considered the ‘Canna Queen’ of Jamaica. Over the past 26 years, she has been an active advocate for the legalisation and economic capitalisation of ganja. Her influence has spread deep, mobilising farmers’ associations at the grass-roots level, and wide, with entrepreneurial interests that span from Jamaica to South Africa.
Through her company, KML Agroconsulting Ltd, she has worked with regulators, academia, and local and international companies on fact-gathering missions. She is also a director of the Ocho Rios-based medical cannabis company Leaf of Life and has struck up a partnership with House of Hemp South Africa to set up an indigenous knowledge-based system for that industry.
As a lifetime advocate, Lennon says public education will be a lifeline for the local industry as many persons concept of ganja is still being influenced by the “lies told on the plant”.
While the local industry has made strides over the past four years since decriminalisation, Lennon said she would have liked to see Jamaica initially develop a research-driven industry as this would have better positioned the country for long-term success.
The second best opportunity, Lennon said, is developing an attractive cannabis wellness-tourism product.
While more than 70 per cent of cannabis farmers are men, Lennon said more women should consider the field as there is a natural synergy.
“Cannabis mirrors the woman, and it is the female plant that is the most productive plant,” she said. “I’d like to see more women involved in farming as you can provide for your family as a ganja farmer.”
CHIEF ANALYST, CARIBBEAN TOXICOLOGY UNIT
There are few persons who understand the chemical make-up of the cannabis plant better than Carole Lindsay. Currently completing her PhD in chemotyping Jamaican grown cannabis, Lindsay oversees all testing and analytical data of cannabis at the Caribbean Toxicology Unit at the University of the West Indies.
Lindsay started working with cannabis in 2012 when she led a research team testing the potency of local ganja. Since 2015, her work has been more specific, identifying the overall chemical properties of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Lindsay’s role is significant as she and her team are the key gatekeepers in ensuring that Jamaican cannabis is being produced at the accepted international standard. This not only includes cannabinoid content, which guides physicians when making recommendations, but ensuring that products are safe and free of pesticides, mould, and heavy metals.
Lindsay is a member of a special committee appointed by the Bureau of Standards Jamaica to create the national standards for the cannabis industry and works closely with cultivators and processors, providing guidance on best practices for the production process.
Lyndsay says her long-term vision for the industry is to see Jamaica benefit economically through a structured medical cannabis industry that capitalises on the unique features of Jamaican-grown cannabis. Her vision is twofold as she also strongly believes in protecting the vulnerable from unintended use and understanding the limits of recreational use.
CEO, ZIMMER & CO
Over the past two years, Zimmer & Co has been steadily developing a cannabis sales and distribution network with its roots in Montego Bay, Jamaica, but with ambitious global aspirations.
Leading the company is T’Shura Gibbs, a 20-year corporate executive who previously worked in the airline and energy industries. Gibbs learnt of medical cannabis after it was recommended for a loved one who had been diagnosed with cancer. However, she was really motivated to enter the industry after attending the CanEx Jamaica conference in 2017 and learning of the many medicinal uses. With the global explosion of CBD medicines around the same time, the opportunity presented itself, and Gibbs jumped in.
Zimmer has invested significant resources in education as Gibbs believes that “only through education will people begin to understand how using medicinal cannabis products can positively impact their lives.”
Zimmer has trained more than 1,200 medical professionals and distributes to more than 350 pharmacies across Jamaica. And this is just the beginning for Gibbs. Zimmer is increasing its presence across the Caribbean and Latin America with plans for expansion to Europe later on.
Nothing excites her more than positive patient feedback on her products and Gibbs says she stays motivated by the social and economic potential cannabis can provide for a developing nation like Jamaica.