Four DOPE Women in Cannabis: The Bio-Hacker, the Architect, the Scientist and the Cultivator Making Waves in the Industry

Four DOPE Women in Cannabis: The Bio-Hacker, the Architect, the Scientist and the Cultivator Making Waves in the Industry
Photo by Alice Esposito

Dr. Brandie M. Cross, PhD: The Bio-Hacker

Founder and CEO, The Pot Lab

A self-identified Human, Bio-Chemist, Molecular Biologist, ‘90s B-girl and founder of The Pot Lab, Dr. Brandie Cross is a bio-hacker with a fierce attitude. Dr. Cross founded the lab during her final year at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, with over 10 years’ experience in academic, clinical and industry laboratories. Her authoritative innovation and compassionate imagination for the eco-friendly formulation of medical cannabis has driven the cooperative to great acclaim, garnering many awards and government grant funding.

The child of revolutionaries, Dr. Cross developed an anarchist attitude early on. In 2011 she could be found at Occupy Wall Street, treating overwhelmed protesters with her groundbreaking THCA tinctures. Her outstanding work with acidic cannabinoids has secured her place in the road to licensing, but Dr. Cross is concerned with the details. “My lab already functions at levels above those required by the feds,” she explains. “Regulation is just about taxing people; I just need to know how much to pay to keep working.” She adds that while the real scientific potential is in bio-technology, there is a severe lack of investment in research and development.

No doubt, Dr. Cross lives a DOPE life. “As the Hopkins scholar and industry pioneer that I am, there are still so many forms of oppression that I face daily—sexism, ableism, racism . . . Yet I continue to overcome them, be happy and confident. I’d say that’s kinda DOPE!”

Four DOPE Women in Cannabis: The Bio-Hacker, the Architect, the Scientist and the Cultivator Making Waves in the IndustryBrandi J. Ma: The Architect

Branding Manager, Urbols Prime Cannabis

Brandi (aka Jessica Gwen Ma) was born in Hong Kong and began her boarding school education at 13 in Sussex, England. Completing her bachelor’s degree in Architecture from University College London, she secured her an internship with Sir Norman Foster, marking the beginning of her global journey.

A trip to visit family in L.A. in 2003 sparked Jessica’s love for the city. She saw opportunity in the vibrant commercial art and movie scene, then quickly decided to stay. She worked as an Architectural Visualization and Presentation Artist before applying her art skills in other disciplines. “Artistic expressions are idea experiments, and branding is one of those experiments,” she says. “It’s a cerebral exercise, and cannabis makes this thinking process clear and rewarding.”

She doesn’t use cannabis every day, instead seeing it much like a fine glass of wine that enhances and compliments life. Brandi saw fascinating challenges to brand for the industry: “It is difficult to brand in an oppressed industry, but it’s also so interesting and there’s lots of room for innovation right now!”

As the Branding Manager for Urbols Prime Cannabis products, Brandi combines her 3-D mock up skills with an artistic view of the world to exercise her passion—and gets paid to do so. As she tells me, “That’s how you live a DOPE life!”

Four DOPE Women in Cannabis: The Bio-Hacker, the Architect, the Scientist and the Cultivator Making Waves in the Industry Allison JusticeDr. Allison Justice: The Scientist

VP of Cultivation, Outco

A childhood on a 200-acre tree farm had tremendous effect on the life of Dr. Justice. While her mother worked to earn respect in the male-dominated farming industry, Dr. Justice quickly set her sights on an academic career in science. She graduated with a PhD in Plant and Environmental Science from Clemson University, where she studied indoor ornamental plants and vegetables. Her dissertation investigated the effects of beneficial, mycorrhizal-type organisms; she learned that when done properly, organic, sustainable growing can be easy, cost effective, and produce aesthetically pleasing plants.

Despite her brilliance in plant science and valuable cultivation skills, Dr. Justice’s transition to the cannabis industry wasn’t easy. “In the agricultural world, it’s not a big deal to switch plant species. But when you enter the canna-space, especially as a woman, you are met with objection. I’m just a starving farmer who loves plants!” she exclaimed.

Before joining Outco, Dr. Justice began consulting pest management companies and grows in California. Now, as their VP of Cultivation, she focuses on the strength of the grows, processes and infrastructure, using her data to cut costs while yielding more successful plants. Dr. Justice thoroughly enjoys her life. She knows it’s DOPE. “Being able to do this work wakes me up every day. I could work 90-hour weeks for the rest of my life and there’d still be more to find out. But for now, I get to make dope—DOPE!”

Four DOPE Women in Cannabis: The Bio-Hacker, the Architect, the Scientist and the Cultivator Making Waves in the IndustryJairia Pass: The Cultivator

Co-founder/Director of Sales, THC Design

Jairia Pass is a mother, entrepreneur, master cultivator, black belt and breeder of award-winning cannabis strains. She tops it all off as the Co-founder and Director of Sales at THC Design. Pass is cultivating success, to say the least; building relationships with collectives, vendors, team members—and her plants.

Pass studied Molecular Biology and Chemistry at Northeastern State before reconnecting with her now-partner, Ryan Jennemann. She and Ryan began growing in the unfriendly state of Oklahoma, and it was there where he taught Pass everything she knows. Until 2009, that is, when they headed to the Golden State to pursue their passion for medical cannabis in a full-time business venture.

Pass manages THC Design’s innovation, sales, distribution, breeding and cultivation practices. Her maternal instincts are obvious in her love for the grow’s “Mom Room”: “This room is my favorite. Because if the mom [plant] isn’t happy, then her babies won’t be. And her babies give us the medicine we need.” She leads a hard-working team in a family-first culture that is rich in diversity and female leadership. Pass defines living a DOPE life as being “self-taught, strong and financially secure enough to leave something for [her] daughter.”




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