2017 CBE 75 Most Important Women

By Rob Meagher and Dave Hodes

Wowza, CBE Press (CBE) is extremely impressed with the credentials and accomplishments of the many women that we reviewed this year who are involved in building the cannabis industry, and we are grateful for the opportunity to be able to share the names, roles and accomplishments of each of the members of the 2017 CBE 75 Most Important Women (actually 81) in cannabis list.

This year’s list includes women representing licensees (producers, processors, and retailers), ancillary businesses, the regulatory arena (state and federal), advocacy and state-based associations, plus a couple of individuals who have made their mark in the past year moving the industry forward, in the unrelenting effort to create a nationally regulated and prohibition-free industry that competes under the same rules and guidelines that other similar industries enjoy.

CBE Press vetted over 250 women this year to compile the 2017 list and, as is the case with any CBE list, we erred on the side of ranking list members based on a variety of factors. But at the end of the day, performance in the form of running a business and achieving solid revenue generation and growth (like expanding footprints domestically and abroad) were overriding factors deciding placement.

This list included women from the following categories:

Producer, Processor or Retailer: 38
Ancillary Business: 29
Regulator: 8
Advocacy or Association: 6

Similar to the 2017 CBE Ancillary Business 150, we experienced a few non-transparent individuals that didn’t want to be included. But as always, we use all the information available to us publicly or through direct conversations, or information exchanges with candidates, to do our best to include, in our opinion, the most deserving candidates.

And as usual, I am sure we missed some folks along the way. We aren’t perfect, and we encourage any and all to let us know who we might have missed so we can include them in the consideration set for future rankings.

This year’s list has been expanded from the 2016 CBE Most Important Women’s list to a total of 75 to make room for other go-getters that are great examples for aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs to emulate. We were very impressed with the listed’s business pedigrees, and included that as part of our consideration criteria, as well as more and more professional managers continues to make dramatic inroads in the industry.

I would be remiss not mention that all that we are seeing occur in the cannabis industry wouldn’t be possible if not for the efforts made by the hundreds of activists and advocates for a prohibition-free industry, and we salute all of the men and women who have tirelessly worked to make this industry possible.

That said, CBE is a business publication and our goal has always been to recognize business performance – the ultimate criteria in measuring success and failure – regardless of the impediments that have to be dealt with by all members of the cannabis community on a daily basis even after prohibition eventually ends.

As was the case last year, this year CBE decided to share the top spot on the list between two exceptional women that I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the past several years – Patricia Rosi,  CEO of Wellness Connection of Maine and Nancy Whiteman, co-founder/owner of Wana Brands.

These two women share several characteristics that CBE admires and believes are imperative not only in this industry but for success anywhere:

  • They both came to the cannabis industry with successful track records and extensive experience in other industries.
  • They both are transparent, direct and incredibly focused on the task at hand, and don’t shy away from getting their hands dirty and doing the work necessary.
  • They incorporate what they learn into their best practices.
  • They lead by example, are motivated by a pursuit of excellence and share the joy in what they do with all around.
  • They contribute to the industry and give back to their communities through action.

And.. they are just good solid human beings that I am proud to call my friends.

That said, I would like to recognize Patricia and Nancy as the 2017 CBE Most Important Women in cannabis.  And yes, I am biased – these two exceptional women have taken the time to share their successes and challenges with me over the last several years, and selflessly with CBE’s readers and their peers.


Fiona Ma

Board Member California State Board of Equalization, Assemblymember Speaker Pro Tem, San Francisco Supervisor 

Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Emeritus Fiona Ma was elected to the State Board of Equalization (SBOE) on November 5, 2014 and represents close to 10 million people in 23 counties from the Oregon border to Santa Barbara County. The 5,000 person tax agency affects every taxpayer in California and has broad regulatory and adjudicatory powers and is the only elected tax board in America.

Ms. Ma was elected to represent the 12th Assembly District from November 2006 to November 2012 (after serving the maximum three terms). She was the #112 woman to ever be elected to the California Legislature and the first Asian woman to ever serve as Speaker pro Tempore since 1850 (first Legislature). Ms. Ma first became interested in politics as a small business owner advocating on behalf of other small businesses. She was an elected delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Small Business under President Bill Clinton and later was elected a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 2002-2006.

In the Assembly, Ms. Ma authored groundbreaking legislation to protect consumers, prevent the spread of Hepatitis B, and increase access to quality healthcare. As a joint author of Proposition 1-A (Nov 2008), she was the legislature’s leading advocate to bring high-speed trains to California. Additionally, Ms. Ma has been and continues to be a leader in promoting trade and fostering relationships between California and Asia.

She is running unopposed to date, for State treasurer in California. Ms. Ma received her B.S. from the Rochester Institute of Technology (NY), her M.S. in Taxation from Golden Gate University (SF), and an MBA from Pepperdine University. She has been licensed in California as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) since 1992. Fiona can be reached at fiona.ma@boe.ca.gov.