When chemist Amber Wise first attended talks at the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) national meeting in 2016, one fact became glaringly evident: the cannabis industry needed scientists. 


Months later, the Cannabis Science Conference in Portland presented her with the opportunity to lend her expertise in chemistry.

She’s been involved ever since.

Wise never set out to attain a career in cannabis, but she’s found that her role is an absolutely necessary one. “We all serve a function in the supply chain,” she says, “and making sure that things are tested and safe for consumers is a really important part of that.”

A previous professor and educator, Wise found that her first job at an extraction facility had no scientists on staff. These laboratories use specialized equipment and methods to pull out oils, terpenes, and other materials from cannabis plants to create a variety of products and methods of administration. 

While there, she spent her time doing developmental work, like optimizing the extraction system, developing new products, and showing the staff how to do terpene extractions.

Her work with 3rd party testing labs shows the gap between science and cannabis. As there are no present regulations in place when it comes to research and testing, it’s a bit of a free for all, which can be dangerous. 

Amber Wise
Scientific Director
Medicine Creek Analytics

“When scientists aren’t involved, things get misinterpreted,” Wise explains. This ranges from proper testing techniques to accurate terms and language. “I don’t want to see [the cannabis industry] fail on the backs of bad science or people doing things in a way that causes harm.” 

Currently, the Scientific Director at Medicine Creek Analytics, Wise’s facility maintains their own very high standards, even more than what the state currently calls for. Testing for pesticides and heavy metals isn’t a requirement in Washington, but Wise’s lab offers them to clients looking for additional verification. 

Despite the present lack of published research, Wise is excited to help set the precedent for future scientific research surrounding cannabis. “I love being at the forefront of a brand new industry,” she explains. 

The papers Wise and her colleagues publish will be in future publications for years to come, helping to ensure science is prominent in policies and regulations, which can better serve patient and consumer safety. “I get to set some of the science.”

As the cannabis market continues its rapid expansion, Wise remembers the atmosphere was very different for women when she was beginning her journey. “It was very hopeful,” she recalls when the industry was new and women were leading the way. “There was a different feel 5 years ago.”

Unfortunately, that feeling has changed.

Cannabis has become an industry that’s overwhelmingly white and male. “It’s been diluted by white men with money,” Wise laments. This is due in part because, traditionally, white men have most of the capital necessary for funding and banking. 

As a result, cannabis has become much more reflective of every other industry in terms of inclusion. “It feels much more like a bro culture now.”

But this doesn’t have to be the environment for women in cannabis. There are ways to ensure it prioritizes inclusivity.

Wise’s advice?

“We have to hire women and support them. Make sure they have what they need to succeed and allow their voices to be heard when they’re in the room.”

Hope Wiseman 

Sandra Guynes