Lightshade celebrates women in cannabis

Women In Cannabis

Lightshade celebrates women in cannabis

Updated 3/28/2019

Inspirational Female Leaders Making an Impact in Colorado and Beyond

As National Women’s History Month draws to a close, Lightshade would like to recognize the impactful women of cannabis.

Last year, we published our first edition of Women in Cannabis. It was—and still is—our goal to highlight the extraordinary women working each day to make a difference in our community. In this year’s edition, we’ve included a few more women making a difference in the cannabis industry, alongside the amazing women featured in last year’s article.

Women historically have struggled to achieve equal footing in the professional world and as recent social movements #MeToo and #TimesUp illustrate, in society and the larger business community, women still have a long way to go. Last year we pointed out that experts estimate the time it will take for women to achieve equality in the workplace at 217 years—sadly, this figure has not changed.

Cannabis is an outlier in the professional world and as our rebellious past suggests, we continue to defy expectations. Our industry is populated with inspirational and empowered women who are changing the world of cannabis and leading the way toward the transformation of the larger business landscape.

March is National Women’s History month. As our nation celebrates the achievements of women across a range of fields and industries, Lightshade would like to highlight a handful of the inspirational women making waves in our budding industry.

We are proud to hold space in the same field as the women discussed below.

Dahlia Mertens, Owner, Mary Jane’s Medicinals

Dahlia Mertens founded Mary Jane’s Medicinals in 2010, after being introduced to a cannabis-infused massage oil while in the mountains of Northern California. Filled with inspiration, she returned home to Colorado and set out to start a line of her own cannabis-infused topicals.

The MMJ movement was in its infancy, making it the perfect time to experiment with new products. Given Dahlia’s background in massage therapy, it only made sense that she start by using her oil on trusted clients. The feedback was outstanding and inspired her to invest her time, money, and energy in building Mary Jane’s Medicinals.

Given the newness of our industry at the time of Mary Jane’s Medicinals founding, Dahlia had to contend with a seemingly insurmountable stigma, and a lack of available research to help inform the creation of her products. Still, she didn’t skip a beat. Dahlia persevered and has built one of our industry’s most beloved brands. Today, Mary Janes Medicinals is a cannabis industry leader in healing topical products.

“When I first started this business and would broach the subject of what I did for a living, I never knew how people were going to respond. I got a lot of judgmental looks in the beginning.”—Dahlia Mertens to PopSugar, 2018

Dahlia Mertens - Mary Jane's Medicinals

Kendal Norris, Owner, Mason Jar Events

Who doesn’t love a great event? And why shouldn’t our industry have its own unique canna-centric events company?

We don’t know if Kendal Norris, founder, and owner of Mason Jar Events was asking herself these questions when she started the company, but it’s easy to recognize her importance within our growing community.

Since 2014, Mason Jar Event Group has created experiences with a focus on high-end (seriously) cannabis culture, music, and dining. Known for their exceptional dinner affairs, resplendent with crystal glassware, banquet tables, and beautiful (and unique) floral arrangements, Kendall and her team craft elevated experiences like no other.

As a passionate cannabis consumer, with a history of hosting private cannabis-themed dinners in her own home, Kendal decided to start the company as a way to tell a new story about our favorite plant. Speaking to Dining Out magazine she said, “I became inspired after personally meeting with cannabis industries, discovering how they got started, and how they’ve tried to maintain a positive image. I wanted to do a series of celebrations to showcase this niche community.”

To keep pace with this ever-evolving industry, cannabis-themed events have started to crop up state-wide, but most pale in comparison to the luxurious soirees planned and executed by Kendal Norris and her team. We encourage you to keep up on all that Kendal and her team have planned—show your support for our community—join a cannabis-themed dinner party or yoga class organized by Mason Jar Event Group.

The next event is Yoga With a View and Cannabis Pairing Brunch on April 20, 2019, in Denver, CO. To receive an invitation to attend, send a Direct Message to @Masonjareventgroup on Instagram or Facebook, or reach out directly at

Kendal Norris - Mason Jar Events

Shannon Fender, Director of Public Affairs, Native Roots

Our friends at Native Roots (yes, we are friends) are inspirational counterparts in this now saturated marketplace. We respect their leadership and commitment to the cannabis community at-large. When they hired Shannon Fender as Director of Public Affairs, they made an outstanding choice (to put it lightly).

Shannon, as Director of Public Affairs, oversees Native Roots global government and community relations initiatives. She works in both the company’s established and new markets, gathering support from community members and stakeholders, to move the cannabis industry forward. She hustles every day to support the Federal legalization of cannabis in our country and to remove the stigma that has for too long plagued this beautiful plant.

Her work in the cannabis industry stretches back to her time working as a contract lobbyist in Colorado. She collaborated with cannabis industry leaders to solve major challenges until arriving at her home with Native Roots in 2016. In addition to her daily work with Native Roots, Shannon is a founding Officer of the Board of the Cannabis Trade Federation, the preeminent organization working to create a professional, credible, and unified industry in Washington D.C.

We are lucky to have a cannabis advocate like Shannon Fender working inside of the political space for the rights of cannabis consumers and businesses nationwide.

“What I have really tried to do in my role, both within the company and as well as reaching out to other organizations and setting that standard of excellence is organize and be better about talking about what we are doing as an industry and a community.”—Shannon Fender speaking to the Seed to Sound podcast

Shannon Fender - Native Roots

Karson Humiston, Owner & CEO, Vangst

At only 25 years old, Karson Humiston is the youngest female cannabis entrepreneur on our list, but her impact is immeasurable. In 2015, seeing a gap in the cannabis workplace, Karson founded Vangst—a platform designed to connect cannabis employers with potential employees.

Vangst was founded in a flash. Humiston, during a cannabis trade show in New York City, on day one, formulated her business concept—she returned for day two with a stack of homemade business cards and a load of ambition. Earning enough leads to prove the viability of her concept, Karson made the move to Denver and hasn’t looked back.

Fast forward to the present and we find Karson and Vangst in a vastly different space from where she began. With over 12,000 candidates, more than 53 companies, and an estimated 200 job openings on the platform, Vangst has grown to become an integral part of the Colorado cannabis community.Last year, Karson was selected to Forbes 2018 Top 30 Under 30 list for Enterprise Technology. As an advocate for removing the stigma associated with cannabis Humiston is outspoken and inspired. 

Speaking to CNBC in 2017, Karson explained, “Convincing people to leave being a manager at Neiman Marcus or Chanel to manage a dispensary is a transition, and people aren’t exactly comfortable with the industry yet, so as a company, we have an obligation to educate our candidates on the industry, on where the industry is going, and where the opportunities are.”

Karson Humiston - Vangst

Nancy Whiteman, Founder & CEO, WANA Brands

Nancy Whiteman, a relative veteran in the growing field of cannabis, is a powerhouse. A former marketing executive, Whiteman defies the stereotype of what people think of when they picture cannabis entrepreneurs.

“A 58-year-old mother of two, Whiteman presents as more sales rep than drug lord: russet hair in a sensible bob, a sly sense of humor tucked beneath a Northeaster reserve and the professionally tidy business casual of someone who started her career in suits.”—Inc.

Whiteman has adeptly navigated the entirely too-complex world of cannabis regulations, building Wana into one of our industry’s most beloved brands. How did she do it? She’s made it this far because of her ability to persevere against the odds, her grit, and her talent for improvisation.

Wana has grown considerably since Nancy founded the company in 2010, and as the industry grows, female cannabis entrepreneurs continue to look to her for inspiration. We know we do.

Nancy Whiteman - WANA Brands

Dani Fontaine, Founder/Co-Owner, Colorado Hemp ProjectNature’s Root

Dani Fontaine’s hemp farm situated just outside of Pueblo, Colorado, was the first of its kind to operate legally in our country since the prohibition of cannabis. Dani, an outspoken advocate of hemp, founded the Colorado Hemp Project to demonstrate to the world the value of this sustainable and renewable, multi-use crop.

“This plan was taken from us and I plan to give it back to the people.”—Dani Fontaine to Fox & Nug, 2015

Since starting her cannabis career in 2008, Dani has been instrumental in bringing organic edibles to market, creating awareness around cannabis use for health, and fights as a fierce advocate for hemp and traditional cultivation practices. Fontaine is an inspirational woman, working for the greater good by helping to provide global access to this healing plant and is outspoken on topics related to cannabis and the industry overall.

“I think the cannabis industry as a whole is developing in my eyes a little slower than what it should be. It’s usually after three to five years you really start to see the fruits of your labor, and then, that’s when the big money wants to come in and not recreate the wheel, but help you build the wheel. It’s evolving nicely but with where we used to be in the late 1800s and early 1900s with cannabis here in America, we are really behind.”—Dani Fontaine to American Spa

Kristi Kelly, Marijuana Industry Group

Kristi Kelly is a vocal advocate for cannabis in America, an industry veteran, and all around cannabis renaissance woman. She’s been working to legitimize our industry for over a decade and has been instrumental in raising the profile of women in cannabis, having been named one of America’s 50 most powerful women in cannabis, and one of the top 100 political cannabis influencers. Kristi is prominently featured in the book Breaking the Grass Ceiling: Women, Weed and Business, and as the Executive Director of the Marijuana Industry Group, she provides consulting services for aspiring businesses and entrepreneurs in the cannabis space nationwide.

Kristi Kelly - Marijuana Industry Group

Kelly Perez, CEO, & Founder, & Courtney Mathis, President & Founder, KindColorado

Kelly Perez is passionate about cannabis and the community. As CEO and Founder of KindColorado, she is instrumental in creating awareness around issues surrounding cannabis and social justice—working tirelessly to join together businesses, nonprofits, communities, and projects.

Cannabis businesses have recognized the importance of philanthropy and responsibility as key initiatives and work with Kelly (along with Courtney) and KindColorado to bring these initiatives to life because breaking the stigma associated with cannabis and the drug war is critical if we want to bring this beautiful plant to the world legally.

“One of these days it won’t be cannabis and the community—it’ll be cannabis IN the community…what we get most excited about is the opportunity for communities (those disproportionately impacted by institutional neglect) that happens to be where many grows and processing facilities are located, to be served by the growing cannabis industry that gets to define itself as a business for good—people, profit, community. Working to change the cannabis narrative from the War on Drugs to a force for social change is pretty damn cool.”—Kelly Perez to the Cannabist, 2016

Courtney Mathis came from the nonprofit space giving her a unique perspective on the cannabis industry. She has a singular take on business and community involvement, which has helped to shape the mission of KindColorado. Courtney coined the phrase “cannabis doing good” which makes perfect sense as it’s representative of her core values and commitment to showing the world what our industry is capable of.

“I know the cannabis sector is capable of changing the world for the better. I also know that motivating a new industry to think about social responsibility and sustainability is a really hard ask when it’s painted as a “should” rather than an opportunity.”–Courtney Mathis for MJBizcon in 2018

At KindColorado, she has been instrumental in creating opportunities for cannabis businesses to engage with nonprofits, neighborhood associations, and other sector leaders. She’s worked with cannabis businesses of every size, and alongside her work at KindColorado, Courtney is also the co-founder of Conscious Cannabis Co. and works in partnership with Grasslands Content Agency to produce inspiring cannabis events.  

At Lightshade, we continue to work with Kelly, Courtney, and KindColorado on projects related to our own Corporate Social Responsibility efforts and have found her insight, experience, compassion, and commitment to the community instrumental in bringing our CSR efforts to life.

Kelly Perez & Courtney Mathis - Kind Colorado

Shannon Brooks, VP of Marketing & Corporate Social Responsibility, Lightshade

We’d be remiss not to mention Lightshade’s own Shannon Brooks. Shannon is committed to bettering our community, eliminating the stigma surrounding cannabis, and changing the cannabis conversation within the media. She is instrumental in all that we do at Lightshade and is part of what makes us unique within this growing community.

Shannon is committed to giving back for the right reasons. Speaking to the Cannabist in 2017, she explained, “Some businesses like to make donations so they can write it off, those giving back from cannabis organizations are really doing it for the right reasons. I do think the public needs to know this is the case.”

In addition to the hard work she does at Lightshade, Shannon serves on the Board of Directors for the Cannabis Trade Federation (CTF). The CTF is a national coalition of cannabis-related businesses that represent all aspects of the industry. They are focused on creating a professional, credible, and unified organization for our industry, and promote social responsibility, sensible cannabis policy, and the ongoing professionalization of this highly regulated and increasingly organized community of businesses.

At present, the CTF is lobbying for the State’s Act, which will alleviate many of the challenges facing the cannabis industry, such as banking, credit card acceptance, and unfair tax laws.

Shannon also serves on the CDOT Task Force for Drunk and Impaired Driving. In order to create awareness around the dangers of impaired driving, Lightshade is actively involved in helping to shape the message of this critical public safety issue. Shannon helps to ensure that cannabis has a seat at the table and is properly represented in this important conversation.

At Lightshade, we are committed to giving back to our community. Shannon is involved in forging partnerships with local nonprofits, organizing staff volunteer days, and is a fierce advocate for corporate social responsibility within the cannabis community at-large. It is through our work in the community we are able to demonstrate Lightshade’s absolute commitment to doing good.

Shannon Brooks - Lightshade

This list is only a fraction of the hard-working, inspirational, and empowered women involved in the world of cannabis. Through the remainder of this month, as Women’s History Month draws to a close, Lightshade will continue to honor the women making an impact in our industry and encourage you to do the same. Show support for the women in your life who are making a positive impact each day.

Celebrate the Equinox at Lightshade Dispensary

What’s In a Name: Celebrating the Spring Equinox with Lightshade

March 20th represents a symbolic day for the planet, and for Lightshade—celebrate with us.

There are two equinoxes each year—in March and September—on these days, the sun’s rays shine directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly equal: 12 hours of day, 12 hours of night.

The spring equinox marks the moment our sun crosses the celestial equator—an illusory line-in-the-sky resting above the earth—from south to north. Since night and day are nearly the same length of time on this day, the world over, the event is referred to as the ‘equinox’, a Latin term which means literally, ‘equal night’.

“Spring has returned. The earth is like a child that knows poems.”—Rainer Maria Rilke

In Colorado, the equinox this year is scheduled to occur March 20th at 10:15 am MDT.

March 20 is a special day for Lightshade—not only is it the date of the Spring Equinox, on this day, the sun’s cycle mimics a critical stage in cannabis growth. During the cannabis growth process, a key point is when the light cycle is changed to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of shade—hence our name, Lightshade.

It is at this point, because of the change in light cycle, our plants begin to flower after vegetation. The degree of time each strain requires to flower can vary—in-general, this time frame typically falls between six and ten weeks.

After flowering, plants are harvested, dried and cured. The overall cannabis life-cycle takes roughly three months—from seed to harvest.

“Behold my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!”—Sitting Bull

The Lightshade grow team takes pride in the process we’ve developed that gives you, our customer’s, high-quality, consistent flower.

The spring equinox is a day of balance between light and dark. Join Lightshade on March 20th  and celebrate this day of balance with us, because the difference really is night and day. Mark the arrival of spring and our namesake, and find balance with specials crafted specifically for this day, including 3 grams of Lightshade strains for $20 (mix & match) and 3 Mary’s Medicinals Transdermal Patches for $20. We will also have live DJ’s at our Sheridan and 6th Avenue dispensaries, from 4-6pm.

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’”—Robin Williams

Lightshade educates customers about safe driving

Lightshade educates the public about safe driving

Keeping our community safe is one of the highest priorities at Lightshade. That’s why we are working with CDOT to educate the public and learn more about the impact of cannabis on people’s ability to drive. We want not only to educate consumers about the dangers of driving high, but we also want to make sure the conversation isn’t skewed.

Head over to the Denver Westword to read more about the CDOT campaign and how Lightshade is helping out.

Aurora Warms the Night - Lightshade Dispensary Social Responsibility

Aurora Warms the Night - National Count Day

Today is national count day where the country takes and official count of people experiencing homelessness. Lightshade had 75 pizzas delivered to feed 250 people experiencing homelessness in Aurora. Lightshade was recently introduced to an organization called Aurora Warms the Night. “Aurora Warms the Night (AWTN) shelters those experiencing homelessness in the winter when temperatures reach 20 degrees or colder.  Year round services include meals, warm clothing, hygiene items, transportation to shelter, laundry vouchers, bus passes, partner agency referrals, and advocacy.” They are doing amazing work in Aurora. Lightshade was notified about count day today and was informed that they see a higher volume than normal of people who come to their daytime drop-in center. This places a significant strain on their resources and it is difficult for them to serve everyone. We were honored to be able to jump in where they needed us most to provide some meals.

Lightshade Winter on the Rocks

2018 Winter on the Rocks

Lightshade was proud to sponsor Icelantic's Winter on the Rocks again. This year's lineup was headlined by Rick Ross and Jauz. Check out some photos and videos from the event!

Read more

Giving Back to Our Community at The Gathering Place


At Lightshade we are committed to being an active and responsible community partner. Over the last few years, as Lightshade has grown, we’ve taken steps to work with organizations in each local community who share our values, goals, and vision for a better world.

One such organization is The Gathering Place.

From The Gathering Place:

“Founded in 1986, the Gathering Place is the only daytime drop-in center in metropolitan Denver that serves women, their children, and transgender individuals who are experiencing poverty, many of whom are also experiencing homelessness. While we refer to those we serve as ‘members’, no fees are ever charged for programs or services.”

Members of the Lightshade team recently spent a day volunteering at The Gathering Place, preparing and serving lunch for over 150 of their members. Like any good hosts, our team picked up the tab and did the dishes after food service!

Lightshade’s Marketing Assistant and Social Media Coordinator, Chelsi Munce, beautifully summarized the overwhelming sense of purpose and gratitude felt by the team, after spending time volunteering at TGP, saying…

“The Gathering Place opened my eyes to how much help women living in poverty need, and the lengths TGP goes to accommodate those needs. The entire Lightshade crew was so happy to help out and make lunch for everyone! After experiencing a full tour of The Gathering Place, the Lightshade team was overcome with emotion at the generosity provided by this center and how much our contribution matters to the improvement of multiple women and children’s lives.”

At Lightshade, it is our belief that doing good feels great. We take pride in our commitment to give back to the community and hope that our efforts, and the efforts of our team, inspire others to follow suit. We created our Corporate Cannabis Social Responsibility program for this purpose—as a method to organize and institutionalize the Lightshade commitment to giving back.

Jump below for a handful of photos and a video from our day of giving at The Gathering Place. If you are interested in learning more about The Gathering Place, or would like to get involved with this outstanding organization, please visit the site below.

Lightshade Gives Back

Giving back to the community has always been important to Lightshade. As a part of our corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, we aim to limit our effects on the environment and remain active in our community.

Lightshade is in the process of testing high-efficiency LED lights and building a state-of-the-art greenhouse facility to reduce our carbon footprint. We continue to facilitate recycling programs at each retail location and in our cultivation facilities within compliance regulations. In addition, Lightshade uses organic-based pest control methods and makes their own organic nutrients, which are used in each cultivation facility. We maximize watering efficiencies by using capillary mats and as a result, very little water is wasted.

Although Lightshade works hard to help out the local community, some non-profit organizations are hesitant to work with cannabis-related businesses. Since cannabis is still illegal from a federal standpoint, some nonprofits are concerned about losing their 501c3 status or federal grant funding by working with cannabis industry partners. Additionally, some of the companies’ partners, board members or financial supporters may not look favorably on the cannabis industry.

Despite some hurdles, Lightshade is ahead of the industry in creating a CSR program that started in the fall of 2016. We have engaged our employees to form a CSR Team with representatives from each retail location and created a two-tier program to support hyper-local initiatives, as well as one or two larger corporate initiatives year-round. Lightshade’s current focus is to make an impact on combating hunger and homelessness.

Lightshade is working with Kind Colorado to determine the best fit for supporting local organizations such as volunteering at food banks, building urban gardens or working with veterans. Lightshade has supported The Gathering Place to provide funding and food and toiletry drives for homeless women and children. We are also sponsoring Manny’s SummerFest on May 20th, a fundraising event for Senior Support Services, which provides food and services for homeless seniors.

We greatly appreciate the continued business from so many loyal customers that help us in supporting our local community. Lightshade is building a corporate culture of giving back and creating a framework that provides our employees with opportunities to understand how important it is to give back to the communities that we serve. Stay tuned for more information on upcoming causes and how you can help make a difference!

CDOT Cannabis Conversation

Don’t Let a DUI Ruin Your High – Lightshade Rolls Out Partnership with CDOT

Lightshade is proud to be a part of the communities we serve – we’ve built a tight-knit and welcoming group of clients, fans and influencers that we consider to be our family. Safety is a big part of our commitment to our community and our industry, which is why we’re partnering with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to help educate and protect our consumers when it comes to driving high.

Lightshade and CDOT partner on Drive High, Get a DUI campaign

We believe it’s our responsibility to keep you happy, informed and safe (and, of course, out of jail). Not only that, but eyes are on Colorado as we blaze a new trail with the legalization of recreational marijuana, and we’re determined to set a positive example of the many social and economic benefits of cannabis to ensure the long-term viability of our industry. Through our partnership with CDOT and its Drive High, Get a DUI campaign, we’ll be focusing on education and outreach to increase awareness about the dangers and consequences of driving high.

If you didn’t already know, it’s illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis, and you can get a DUI, just like with alcohol. Last year, more than 17 percent of Colorado’s DUI arrests involved marijuana. Even if you have a prescription and use cannabis medicinally, the law and limits apply and can come with some pretty serious consequences – like jail time and loads of money.

We’ve heard from patrons who say, “I’m a better driver when I’m high,” so we think it’s important to point out the impacts marijuana has on you. Whether you eat, smoke, vape or dab, science confirms that consuming cannabis affects your reaction time, peripheral vision, and perception of time, distance and speed – some of the more critical skills needed to drive safely. When you’re high, it’s harder to respond quickly when something unexpected happens while driving – like if the car in front of you makes a sudden stop or a pedestrian steps out in front of you.

Working with our partners, our customers and the community, we hope to not only keep you safe, but also try to change the way people think about marijuana-impaired driving. If you’re going out drinking, it’s a no-brainer (we hope) that you’ll call a sober ride if you’ve had a few drinks. But there isn’t yet that same thought process when people know they’re going to be getting high. We encourage you to take advantage of Denver’s connectivity and plan ahead by using services like Lyft, Uber and public transportation when you’re high. Look for information in our stores, online and on social media as part of our partnership with CDOT, and thank you for consuming responsibly.

How-to Video: Dabbing

The Benefits of Dabbing (Cannabis)

Ever been curious about dabbing, but not sure how to get started? Check out this video with Lightshade’s 6th Ave assistant manager, Michael, who describes what dabbing is, the benefits of dabbing and the various types of concentrates available. Stick around to the end to watch his demonstration of how to dab. At Lightshade, we pride ourselves on educating our customers about the products, effects and consumption methods available to best suit their needs. If you have further questions after watching, don’t hesitate to stop by any Lightshade location to chat with one of our qualified bud tenders.

Customer smelling cannabis flower held between chopsticks by Lightshade Iliff Dispensary Budtender

Lightshade Iliff Location Now Open

Lightshade is excited to announce that our newest Colorado recreational marijuana dispensary location is now open! The Lightshade Iliff location is one of the best marijuana dispensaries in the Denver metro, serving recreational customers ages 21+. Established in 2011, Lightshade continues to expand, with Iliff marking the sixth Lightshade dispensary in the Denver metro area.

Our newest location continues to uphold Lightshade’s reputation for growing the best quality genetics in Colorado. Our Iliff location—along with our other five Denver and Aurora marijuana dispensaries—offers a huge selection of marijuana products, including flower, edibles, concentrates, tinctures, topicals, merchandise and apparel.

Lightshade Iliff is conveniently located on the corner of East Iliff Avenue and South Buckley Road in Aurora, 18 miles from Denver International Airport (DIA) via the E470 Toll Road, 19 miles from downtown Denver and 1.5 – 2 hours from the major Colorado ski resorts, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Copper Mountain, Breckenridge and Winter Park. Lightshade Iliff has a large space to serve you the highest quality recreational marijuana and marijuana products. Visit today to see why Lightshade was voted #1 for the best dispensary bang for your buck in Westword Denver. The difference is night and day!