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‘Women In Weed’ Is Nothing Special

Photo Jason Redmond

Joint Opinions

‘Women In Weed’ Is Nothing Special

Lately, there has been a lot of specialized coverage of “Women in Weed.” Most cannabis-centric publications have put out special women-themed issues or featured lists ranking top female activists or businesspeople.

It wasn’t too long ago the concept of women using, growing or selling cannabis was not only taboo but also completely shunned by mainstream society. Of course, with women making up half the global population, it should come as no surprise that of the nearly half of the Americans who admit to trying cannabis at some point in their lives, 35 percent are female. Women already exist in the cannabis world and always have.

The blame for public perception is varied, but much of it lies on the media and the industry itself. A lot of it is in how women are being covered in the media for their cannabis use. These days, the mainstream media has been painting a much fuller picture of women’s involvement in cannabis, and more women have been coming out because of it. Today, when the phrase “Women in Weed” comes up, it should evoke the mothers who line the halls of their state capitals fighting to legalize medicine for their children or the successful business owner in a new up and coming industry. But, the media coverage would have you think it’s all about flashy events, lifestyle and fashion and that women just showed up to the party.

As cannabis use started regaining some cultural acceptance in the United States in the mid-20th century, white men were traditionally the most likely to openly admit their use, write about cannabis or publicly advocate for it.

The stereotypical stoner has always been one of two things; the 18-24 year old privileged white male or the demonized drug addict, most often a person of color or other marginalized group. Perceptions dictate personal outcomes, and historically when white men are outed for using marijuana they still retain the capacity in the public eye to serve as President of the United States. For marginalized groups — women, people of color, different genders, religions, the poor or disabled — being outed for using marijuana is more likely than for a white male to come with devastating consequences such abusive run ins with law enforcement, a justice system stacked against them, incarceration, child removal and job or home instability. This, of course, devastates whole communities everywhere around the world.

But this is changing in some parts of the country. While the threat of child removal is still very real in all states, women — along with all people — are taking advantage of participating in the fastest growing industry in the nation. As the laws change and the era of legalization and commerce arises, women are gaining mainstream acceptance and being featured at events and in publications more, but at what point does the coverage cross the line from inclusion to pandering?

When women are highlighted in the media solely because they are female, as part of special women-only profiles or — most egregiously — ranked on a list of top women leaders within an activist movement or industry, they aren’t truly being represented, they are being commodified. For some reason editors and marketers across the country are scratching their heads about how to make media more diverse. Many want to appeal to the massive consumer buying power of women, especially in the billion dollar and rapidly growing cannabis industry.

Instead of trying to figure out how to appeal to other people, include them. There are women, people of color and different genders doing pretty much everything all over the world, but as marginalized people the risks are far greater in admitting cannabis use. If more media outlets had more diverse pools of writers they would more adequately cover issues relevant to all cannabis users — not just white men. The issues of women and other marginalized groups are everyone’s issues, they aren’t specialty issues and they deserve to be covered as part of the mainstream just like white men’s issues.

On the Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, TV writer and producer Shonda Rhimes lamented that although she is the most successful television writer in a generation—the last person to “own a night of television” was Aaron Spelling in the 1970s — she is frustrated that most of her interviews focus on her being Black and female, as if it is somehow special that she could be capable of her talent despite these things. She said she often avoided interviews, not just because she is an introvert, but also because she was tired about being featured as “first-only-different” rather than simply being recognized as a master of her craft.

Similarly, the media is to blame for the perception that women are a new “trend” in cannabis rather than a reality of it. Women already grow marijuana, sell it, own businesses and advocate for the laws around it to change. They just need to be included as if they are part of the whole, featured for what they are doing not their physical anatomy.

It’s important for the concept of women and cannabis to mainstream. The more acceptable it becomes the greater benefit there is to society at large. So many people could benefit from using cannabis as an alternative to some more dangerous medical treatments, and naturally many of them are women. By allowing women or other marginalized people the societal comfort to determine if cannabis is right for them in their lives we create a freer society. We affirm that we believe in the American freedom of principles and the right of a human being to determine autonomy over the substances they put into their own bodies — for whatever reason they choose and whatever the outcomes may be.

Media perception of women in cannabis matters and if women are simply featured as socialites, models or special features they are forced to compete against one another for recognition. So while all the “Women in Weed” hype is great for visibility, it does nothing to address real women’s issues surrounding cannabis.

What do you think? Are women’s issues surrounding cannabis being addressed by the media? Tell us in the comments below.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Rod is on the Gas

    November 18, 2015 at 8:34 am

    Very nice article Angela Bacca. I share your concern. I was born a white male of privledge. I learned quite early in life that females of strength and strong character were attractive. My mother and my wife of 49yrs are the 2 best humans in my life. My 3 daughters and 5 grandsons affirm my feelings of respect and gratitude for my survival.

    Don’t sweat it Angela. The advertising and media business are out-of-step. In my County in CA, the 2 thriving dispensaries are owned by females who employ masculine muscle to do the heavy lifting. Their primary concern is compassion, followed by superior business actions.

    In my 7 decades of life, I’ve studied the improvements that have been acquired by women living in a man’s world. I believe you’re doing fine. I wish you women peace and love.

    • janis wohl

      December 21, 2015 at 10:30 pm

      The young white male budtender at Left Coast Connection was handsome and talking to him was relief from a toothache I was treating with medical cannabis and I was not alarmed when I saw a young female conferring with him over the product he was preparing for sale to me. Why would I be alarmed I ask myself? Marijuana is a good shit detector and I have seen all of the usual suspects since arriving in Portland is why e.g. Left Coast Connection is located right across the street from Enterprise, the outfit that went to the Florida State Legislature and had extending your contract on a rental car criminalized into grand theft auto. I should apologize to the people f Florida since I was the one that was a few days late. I’d like to fess up to the end of property and all other Constitutional rights in Florida when my Appeal Brief was stricken from the record and the Supreme Court isn’t hearing any pro bono anymore. Any rich attorneys out there want to save the people of Florida by taking my case to the next level? My Appeal Brief is tucked in my LinkedIn page linked below. Another suspect is PS who took all of my stuff by not notifying me by email of a rent increase and then disabled their customer care email, documented by me on Facebook. Leaving the store, the package looks like a quarter oz not a half and when I get home I find out it is. I used the chromator from Pure Green dispensary and Yelp and text WCC to let them know. They text back they’ll get back in a few days and then they text a lukewarm sorry and come in and I do and the lady manager says she’ll refund an eighth and I say no so an older white manager steps up to the plate and says it didn’t happen and they cant give me ANY.

  2. ophelia chong

    November 18, 2015 at 8:15 am

    I believe that there is no “grass ceiling” in the cannabis industry. As an Asian American woman, I am entering the industry as an ancillary business, providing stock photography of real cannabis users and communities. As both a minority and a woman, I have found no barriers in this industry, rather I have found open arms and incredible support from both the old guard and new, male and female. The mass media has no idea how to treat Cannabis, my goal is to offer the real faces of Cannabis, to de-stigmatize and to legalize. The most important part of being in this business is to be genuine in your intentions, whether you are male, female, black, white, brown or yellow, if you are true in your intent, you will succeed. – Ophelia Chong / Stock Pot Images, LLC

    • Angela Bacca

      November 18, 2015 at 11:04 am

      Ophelia, agreed! “The most important part of being in this business is to be genuine in your intentions, whether you are male, female, black, white, brown or yellow, if you are true in your intent, you will succeed.”

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