In the tradition of James Dean suggestively puffing a cigarette, the juxtaposition of slender white joints alongside feminine fingertips is rapidly becoming the latest sexualized American smoking. But within the burgeoning establishment of a supposedly medicinal industry, the pairing of sexualized female images with the cannabis plant has taken the industry down a path laced with wrongheaded sexism. This approach is as irresponsible as the overwhelming stereotype that most card carriers are freewheeling pleasure seekers.
Sex is used as a sales technique for many products, but it should be noted that the medical marijuana industry is different than other commercial enterprises; marketing of medical marijuana should focus on the attributes of health instead of profit. Portrayals of scantily clad women may be appropriate for Viagra, but not for life-saving drugs. Cannabis is legally viewed as a recreational substance in some states and in that situation, utilizing a female to encourage sales can seem both humorous and harmless. But, suggesting a complementary pairing of women and weed is, when considering the medical and scientific uses of the cannabis plant, actually unsavory in its irrelevance.
I can appreciate how the re-emergence of cannabis into the mainstream and the growing media interest that has generated has brought the truth of cannabis’ beauty into the limelight. Whether the revelation comes to a newfound user or a seasoned aficionado, this reality is as exciting as discovering the beauty of the female figure. I, too, find myself admiring high-resolution photos of trichome glands and images of both sex and weed can produce feelings of euphoria. But, although the legalization of marijuana is proof that times are “a changing,” we all need to gingerly sidestep historical attitudes when we portray an esoteric plant in the kaleidoscope of social consciousness. This is particularly the case when this wildly stigmatized and misunderstood “drug” is combined with the demeaning portrayals of women already rife in our media.
Therefore, my problem is this: like cigarettes in bed and the use of alcohol to soften first dates, relating sex to cannabis draws the wrong image of decadent behavior. While sensuous temptations are attractive and alluring, they suggest an inevitable downward trajectory, one that collides with the healing and wellness bestowed upon those who enjoy cannabis’ holistic qualities. Healthy cannabis use is not a dangerously indulgent sensation, but is actually as common as taking an aspirin to reduce inflammation. Such a straightforward, homely image is the most accurate way to depict cannabis – lest anyone forget that medical marijuana is an industry promoting wellness.
When responding to customers, I realize that I don’t work in a bar, I don’t receive tips and I don’t have any need to use my feminine charms when it comes to selling medical cannabis. Instead, I find myself discussing childhood epilepsy, witnessing the enthusiasm of a son while his newly diagnosed mother purchases a tincture and explaining to an elderly gentleman that topicals will not produce a psycho-active effect. These are the brief moments that I am able to step off of the overly-sexed pedestal that all female card carrying patients have been placed on. With the limited attention that cannabis receives in today’s media, there is not enough room for both concepts of wellness and sexiness to co-exist. In the medical marijuana industry, women and weed are not a pairing I want to see proliferated.
By Maggie Kerr
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