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Wanda L. James

Wanda L. James

Founder & CEO of Simply Pure

Wanda L. James

Founder & CEO of Simply Pure


Wanda James may be known as a successful entrepreneur and leader, but at heart, she’s just as much an advocate and politician. James is the Co-founder and CEO of Simply Pure — a marijuana dispensary, cultivation and edible company located in Denver. But she is equally as passionate about the fight for cannabis reform, social equity and social justice.

In 2009, she and her husband, Scott Durrah, became the first African Americans legally licensed to own a dispensary. She is also the Founder and President of the Cannabis Global Initiative (CGI), a marketing and consulting firm that specializes in diversity development, regulatory framework and marketing. The company is dedicated to consistently providing innovative solutions through strategic alliances and business development surrounding the legalization of cannabis.

James’ positioning of her company, on both the political stage and on cannabis reform, has led to her being the first cannabis entrepreneur and company to be named to AD WEEK’s 2021 Trailblazer list, along with Vice President Kamala Harris, NBC President Kim Goodwin and MSNBC President Rashida Jones. James was also inducted into the 2019 MJBiz Hall of Fame. She was the 2018 Lifetime Achievement winner of the Cannabis Business Awards, named one of the Top 50 Women in Cannabis and 100 Most Influential People in Cannabis by High Times magazine, 2019 Cannabis Business Executive (CBE) 30 Top Power Women of Cannabis and 2016 CBE 50 Most Important Women in the Cannabis Industry.

She has been featured on the covers of Black Enterprise, Vanguard Magazine, Sensi Magazine, Cannabis Dispensary Magazine and Cannabis & Tech Magazine. She and her husband have been featured in numerous national and international shows, including BET’s SMOKE, The BBC, Democracy Now, The Atlantic, MIC.com, MSNBC, Smile Jamaica, Viceland, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CBS Sunday Morning Holiday Special, Eat, Drink and be Merry and CNBC’s Marijuana USA.

A leading advocate for social equity and a civil rights fighter, James helped elect America’s first Black President and America’s first openly gay Governor, Jared Polis of Colorado. James was appointed to President Obama’s National Finance Committee and became one of the largest bundlers of donations for President Barack Obama in Colorado. In 2018, James was appointed to Polis’ Transition Team and currently serves on the Kamala Harris National Finance Committee. Her expertise on cannabis reform, regulation and policy has assisted numerous municipalities including Colorado, Jamaica, Maryland and Illinois, in their legalization efforts.

Graduating from the University of Colorado, Boulder, she was commissioned an officer in the United States Navy and served for four years in Naval Integrated Underwater Surveillance.

James is a gubernatorial appointee to the Colorado Tourism Board of Directors, a graduate of the Inaugural Class of the Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute at the University of Southern California and a former President of the National Women’s Political Caucus. She was appointed to the Los Angeles Small and Local Business Commission and sat on the Board of Directors for the Starlight Children’s Foundation and the Board of Directors of the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce. James was also a former member of the University of Colorado Alumni Board of Directors.

Speaker Videos

Pot, Power & Politics

Change in Cannabis Policy and Culture | Blunt Talks

Speech Topics

Pot, Power & Politics

For Wanda James, co-founding a cannabis dispensary was about much more than starting a business. It was about social justice and how people of color are sent to prison at alarmingly high rates for simple possession, while their White counterparts are allowed to go free. Her journey into the business of weed began after learning that her brother had been incarcerated for 10 years at just 17 for buying less than five ounces of marijuana. He spent nearly five of those years picking cotton for free. “It was a cruel and unusual punishment that amounted to slavery,” she says. In this keynote, James shares why so many Black and Brown people are still getting arrested and sent to prison for simple possession and how getting politically involved and fighting for the decriminalization of cannabis might be the solution for solving this injustice. She’ll also untangle the politics of pot and why so many Black people are getting boxed out of the business and offers solutions on how African Americans can work together to break this logjam.

Trailblazing: Navigating a New Industry With Confidence & Courage

If there is one thing that Wanda James believes led to her success it’s this: She never expected anyone to give her the American dream. She earned it herself. “Give me a level playing field and I will take charge,” she said in a documentary for The Atlantic. “I will do anything within my power to make sure that we are given an even playing field.” An even playing field, indeed. James is a longtime activist for social equity and justice, as well as cannabis reform. She’s also a serial entrepreneur with her husband, Scott Durrah. The pair owned restaurants, a cooking school, a consulting business and were the first African Americans legally licensed to own a cannabis dispensary in the United States. In this highly motivational keynote, James shares her framework for winning in business in a new industry and why confidence and courage are the keys to success, along with helping others along the way. You can get past what life throws at you and become a success at business and life — no matter the color of your skin. James will help you get started.

Leadership: Developing the Power of Your Own Voice

What makes a great and effective leader who others will follow? It’s not about a title, that corner office or offering all those free perks, says Wanda James. The former Naval officer, corporate executive and serial entrepreneur shares her insights on how you can get your team to be more creative, productive and willing to go that extra mile, from developing your own voice to removing the word “can’t” from your vocabulary to making a difference to blazing your own trail. Drawing from her own experience and distinguished career, James offers lessons that will help you take you and your team to the next level.

The Future of the Cannabis Industry

It’s a fact. Getting into the cannabis business is incredibly complicated. There are rules and regulations that are different in every state, where medical or recreational marijuana is legal—not to mention that the federal government still does not recognize it as a legal substance. Add to that, licenses, permits and procedures that are required. In this keynote, Wanda James, co-founder of Simply Pure, shares her insights into this burgeoning market, how to avoid getting boxed out of the business and what you need to do to get started, as well as where the cannabis industry is headed in the future.

Growing Your Influence With the Power of Proximity: Why You Need to Cultivate Relationships

Through her many years of work in politics — including helping elect President Barack Obama and Governor Jared Polis of Colorado, as well as being a leading advocate for cannabis reform — Wanda James has learned the power of cultivating relationships and influence. In this presentation, James shares her knowledge on how to grow your influence and use the power of proximity to change the conversation and create opportunities. It’s the first step in helping change the world and getting things done.