The Educator: Dr. Lakisha Jenkins, president of California Cannabis Industry Association

For now, the cannabis industry is just like many other business spaces in America: white, male, and moneyed. These are boom times for marijuana, and as the saying goes, money looks like money.

That’s changing. One of the Bay Area’s best known and fastest-growing edibles companies, Auntie Dolores, is founded and run by women. And when the billion-dollar California cannabis industry goes lobbying in Sacramento, its public face is a woman.

A naturopathic doctor, Central Valley-based Dr. Lakisha Jenkins is on a mission to rebrand cannabis as a natural medicine akin to the other healing herbs from which many pharmaceuticals are based.

This won’t be easy. There’s plenty of negative publicity, and the source is the industry itself.

“Most people in America are visual learners,” she noted. And at cannabis cups, the most striking visual images are of scantily clad women running booths, “footlong joints,” and big globs of concentrates sending dabbers into orbit. This presents a problem every time Jenkins tries to get laws changed in the Capitol.

“If you go to these cannabis events, there’s next to no focus on cannabis’ medicinal value,” she said. “That’s the reason why we can’t get regulations in the state. How are lawmakers going to take us seriously?”

This is one reason that while Jenkins does stock medical marijuana buds at her Kiona’s Farm’Acy holistic health centers in Oakdale and Merced, her focus is on non-intoxicating methods of medicating: oils, tinctures, and other examples of marijuana as a wellness product rather than party time aid.

These are the products that appeal to people who would never smoke. Bringing them on board could be the key forward for legal weed.

“Consumer education will make or break the industry,” she said. “When you focus on cannabis as a wellness product, peoples’ minds are open.”