We’ve given props to the legacy class of the Mount Rushmore of Weed. And since the early days of cannabis activism, there have been many others who have taken up the cause — pushing for better policies and legislation, for safer and healthier growing practices, and working on advanced technologies, growing practices, and processing options. Truly, the world of cannabis has exploded in just the last 10 years alone. While there are so many folks working hard within the industry, we wanted to highlight what we consider to be the “new class” of cannabis activists, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts, each leaving their mark in their own unique way. They are also representative of all the hardworking people in the cannabis industry who are taking it to new heights of acceptance.

Nick Etten, Executive Director Of The Veterans Cannabis Project

One of the segments of society that has found immense relief and benefit with cannabis are veterans. Many of the men and women who have served this country find themselves faced with increasing challenges post enlistment, from dealing with severe physical injuries, to post-traumatic stress disorder and more. Thankfully, those who have been able to access cannabis have found help, but unfortunately, not all vets can get cannabis or even afford it.

Nick Etten and his organization, the Veterans Cannabis Project, is at the head of this necessary fight. Helping veterans via cannabis can make an immense impact on their lives, something that Etten, a former US Navy SEAL, truly understands. His mission — to provide a place at the cannabis table to help veterans in need — shows the forward-facing trajectory this industry is headed. One where compassion, care and cannabis intersect.

Wanda James, Owner Of Simply Pure

It’s no secret that Wanda James is a force to be reckoned with within the cannabis industry. Not only is James co-owner — along with her husband Scott Durrah — of Simply Pure, a popular Denver dispensary, as well as an edibles and cannabis cooking company, but she was also the first black woman to open a dispensary in the state of Colorado. In fact, James was one of the only black dispensary owners in the state for a long time. Breaking ground in the industry as a woman of color is significant, particularly in an industry that is still mostly made up of white men. In addition to the retail side of things, James was an instrumental part of the Amendment 64 Task Force that laid the groundwork for regulating recreational cannabis in the Rocky Mountain State.

Ebele Ifedigbo, Lanese Martin & Biseat Horning, Co-Founders Of The Hood Incubator

One aspect of the booming cannabis industry that needs to be highlighted is the way communities of color have been impacted by racist drug laws and policing in this country. With a firm foothold in economic and racial justice, Ebele Ifedigbo, Lanese Martin, Biseat Horning, and their team at Oakland-founded The Hood Incubator have worked diligently to increase the participation of people of color within the cannabis industry.

Operating within the community, The Hood Incubator focuses on three main areas: community organizing, policy advocacy and economic development. Through apprenticeship and business accelerator programs, Ifedigbo, Martin and Horning offer up opportunities to the marginalized communities of color who have been most impacted by the damaging, harmful and racist drug laws in this country. It would be amazing to see their mission spread to others within the industry, and we look toward them to see how the future of the cannabis world could be.