For the past several months, an important conversation has been discussed more and more in the cannabis movement/industry: women and feminism. This is a discussion I not only find important, but one that is worth articulating over The Weed Blog. However, I can only articulate this point so much, so I decided to ask the prime examples of truly remarkable women in the cannabis industry/movement what they think about the topic.
How long have you been apart of the cannabis movement?
"In 2006, I was a freshman at the University of Maryland. Like many young people, I made the ill-fated decision to smoke marijuana in my dorm room. I was by myself, in my pajamas, when I heard a knock at the door. Knowing nothing about my rights, and never having experienced a police encounter before, I let them in and immediately turned over all of the contraband I had - a small pipe and less than 1 gram of marijuana.
The next several hours would change my life. They searched every inch of my dorm room, forced me to change my clothes in full view of several officers, while making a big scene as they marched me out in handcuffs as if I was a drug kingpin. At the police station, officers laughed at me as I cried, making fun of 'the college girl who got caught smoking pot', as I was put in 5 point shackles while I was fingerprinted and had my mug shot taken.
In the days following my arrest, my shock turned to outrage. Did I really deserve to be treated like this? Was this really the most pressing matter for the police in College Park that night? How much worse would this have been if I wasn't a middle class white woman? How was my smoking marijuana by myself to help me fall asleep posing a threat to the rest of the community? Who was being harmed by my behavior?
I had been a supporter of drug policy reform before this incident, but afterwards, my involvement with the movement -- specifically with Students for Sensible Drug Policy -- skyrocketed. In SSDP, I found a community of people who shared in my passionate belief that the War on Drugs has failed and that alternative approaches are not only possible, but necessary. I then served two years as President of the UMD SSDP chapter and went on to serve two years as a student board member on SSDP's national board of directors, started interning at the national SSDP headquarters, and later was hired as a full-time Outreach Director once I graduated in 2009, and I've been on staff ever since."
How would you say women are generally portrayed within the cannabis culture?
"Typically, I'd say women historically have been portrayed as objects within the cannabis culture. Advertisements with scantily clad women are used to promote all sorts of products, but I guess it hits closer to home for me when the product in question is cannabis related because of my passion for reform.
It sometimes seems that the type of woman most valued in the majority of the cannabis culture is a sexy pot smoker. There are so many different types of women who use it and/or advocate for marijuana policy reform, and it's disappointing not to see that reflected in typical cannabis culture. I will say that I've noticed a decrease in this kind of portrayal in recent years, but it's certainly still around."
Why do you think women have gotten the image they have within the cannabis culture?
"Because, unfortunately, this is the image of women most often seen in other industries. I don't think there's anything inherent to the cannabis movement or industry that causes this to be more egregious than in other parts of society."
How can we fight this image?
"Making space for women in leadership positions, increasing awareness around this issue, elevating good examples of positive portrayals of women, and making a point to reach out to women to step into leadership positions."
Why is diversity important within the cannabis industry?
"Diversity is important in any movement or industry that strives to be inclusive of different perspectives and lived experiences. And of course any social justice movement must be representative of the populations impacted by the bad policies in question."
What do you think is the most important issue facing the cannabis movement right now?
"Keeping our eye on the prize as cannabis politics become increasingly more complicated. We must remain committed and unified in working toward our shared goal of ensuring no one is treated like a criminal for the responsible use of cannabis."