In 1986, James graduated from the University of Colorado. After graduation she was commissioned into the United States Navy. She also graduated from the Inaugural Class of the Los Angeles African American Women's Public Policy Institute at the University of Southern California.
James was a former lieutenant in the United States Navy, where some of her duties included tracking submarines. She also was a political campaign manager. She ran Colorado representative Jared Polis's first campaign, and ran the 2006 congressional race in Colorado Springs, Colorado for Lieutenant Colonel Jay Fawcett. She worked on former President Barack Obama's 2008 National Finance Committee. She also worked to get sentences dropped for people in jail for cannabis possession. She worked on Colorado governor John Hickenlooper's task force for Colorado's Amendment 64. She was previously appointed to the Los Angeles Small and Local Business Commission. She has also served on the board of directors of the Starlight Children's Foundation and the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce. She decided to get into the cannabis industry after her brother was given a 10-year prison sentence for marijuana possession. Prior to opening a dispensary, she owned restaurants with her husband in Los Angeles and Denver. When she opened a dispensary in 2009 with her husband, she became the first black dispensary owner in the United States. The business was closed in 2012, but reopened in 2016. She is a managing partner at the Cannabis Global Initiative.
Honors and appearances
James has appeared on the covers of the inaugural edition of the April 2016 issue Sensi Magazine, the January 2018 issue of Dispensary Magazine and the February 1997 issue of Black Enterprise. In 2018 James was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the cannabis industry by High Times Magazine, 2015 she was named One of the TOP 50 Female Executives by the Cannabis Business Executive (CBE) and in 2010 James was named the Marijuana Advocate of the Year by Westword Magazine. She has appeared on numerous television shows, including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CBS Sunday Morning, CNBC's Marijuana USA, and Smile Jamaica.
- Ostrow, Joanne (16 February 2017). "Other Roots: Wanda James, the first black dispensary owner in Colorado, talks marijuana motivation". The Cannabist. Other Roots: Wanda James, the first black dispensary owner in Colorado, talks marijuana motivation. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
- Thomas Whitfield, Chandra. "Capitalizing On Cannabis: Meet Colorado's Black 'Potrepreneurs'". NBC News. NBC News. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
- Brown, Carolyn (25 November 2014). "Marijuana Inc: Growing Opportunities For Black Businesses". Black Enterprise. Black Enterprise. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
- West Savali, Kirsten. "The Pioneer: Wanda James, the 1st Black Woman to Own a Marijuana Dispensary, Gets Real". The Root. The Root. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
- Roberts, Michael. "Wanda James on Closure of Edibles Business, MMJ Banking, Obama, and More". Westword. Westword. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
- Zhang, Mona (24 June 2016). "The High Times Interview: Wanda James". The High Times. The High Times. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
- "The Evolution of Women and Cannabis | Marijuana and Women".
- Mitchell, Thomas. "Marijuana Comeback: Wanda James, Scott Durrah Return with Highland Pot Shop". Westword. Westword. Retrieved 2 May 2017.