The idea that sex sells is prevalent in any industry. Check out your television for half an hour to see subtle subliminal messaging, implications and even sexy cheeseburgers. However, you probably won’t see an advertisement on tv for a cannabis vaporizer cartridges with a long, slim pen sticking out from a woman’s lips while smoke slowly dissipates and she encourages you to suck in… yet. These types of ads do exist and is a prevailing idea of what women in the marijuana industry look like. However, the green rush has just begun and we now have the chance to make this industry what no other could dream to be.
If you go to marijuana.com, run by Weedmaps, you most likely won’t have to scroll past the first row of images to see a half naked woman clearing a bong and blowing the smoke at the camera. By not even showing their faces half of the time, it further confirms that women are seen as just a body to get high and use for pleasure in these pictures. Marijuana.com has entire page dedicated to “bitches & bud,” while sex sells pretty much anything, is there reason that we aren’t seeing naked guys smoking blunts? Wouldn’t a huge bong between a man’s legs actually make more sense? I know there are plenty of women who find a nice guy in a beanie with a joint extremely sexy, but have you ever seen an ad like that? I haven’t.
Even when an ad doesn’t have a half naked (or fully nude, but covered in weed) woman, there are still ads throughout publications that promote sexism in the industry. Whether it’s just a full body shot of a female stacking product compared to an above-the-waist shot of a male doing the exact same thing, or 1 middle aged man standing behind 6 attractive 20 somethings to promote a new recreational store, there is a clear difference in the way men and women are portrayed in the industry.
I could go on about “bong babes,” 420 Nurses (they’re pretty far from registered nurses) and “grow hos,” which Urban Dictionary defines as, “a girl who starts out as a marijuana trimmer and uses suggestive clothing and sexual favors to work her way up to growers girlfriend. These girls only date marijuana growers and dealers, and will leave their current boyfriend as soon as someone with more money/weed comes along” but the sexism in the industry goes far past that. Whether it’s customers assuming the female associates don’t know as much (or smoke as much) as our male co-workers, or vendors making comments like “women like to smoke marijuana because of the lack of calories!” there is a real lack of understanding and a disconnect between the men and women in the cannabis industry. This can partially be explained by the marijuana industry’s illegal past though. There are generally more male dealers in the black market due to the many dangerous aspects of selling marijuana illegally and a massive man is less likely to be robbed than a small woman who is thought to not have the backup to defend herself and her product.
This power dynamic has put men in charge of the marijuana supply and with their experience, they have continued to run the legal industry as well. Craigslist ads asking for “attractive girl trimmers” and medical as well as recreational marijuana stores asking for head-shots along with resumes are not uncommon. There is also a stronger stigma against women consuming marijuana than men, and the stigma against mothers is one of the worst. Child Protective Services have taken children from mothers who use cannabis even in states where medical or even recreational use is legal. Moms of special-needs children are also facing the impossible choice of either helping their child with medical marijuana and risking arrest or not helping their child at all. When it comes to pop culture, think of how many stoner movies exist, and then think to those with a female lead, or even a female character who smokes in the film… This culmination of stigmas, history, attitude, and the patriarchy in general has put men in charge of almost every aspect of the marijuana industry. It doesn’t have to be this way though.
The green rush has just begun. Marijuana has only been legal for 3 years in Washington & Colorado and the industry is just now finding its footing. We have the chance to make this an industry unlike any other. We are already pushing for the most sustainable practices to make sure marijuana crops do not turn into the agricultural mess that so many industries have adopted, so why stop there? There are plenty of women like Betty Aldworth of Students for Sensible Drug Policy in this industry saying “We’re over sexism & other isms at #mjbizcon, so we’re posting things people should be embarrassed to have said. Fuck your #cannabias” and fighting to be respected. Magazines like Lady Bud and organizations like Women Grow and MJBA Women’s Alliance are all talking about how women can influence the industry and change it for the better, and stores like Dockside Cannabis are making sure women like Boss Lady Maria Moses (one of the owners) are helping to run the show, have their opinions valued and are trying to combat sexism at every level. What do you want to see change in the marijuana industry? What could we be doing to make it more equitable for everyone? Let us know in the comments!