While women continue to take the lead in the future of cannabis, holding more executive positions than in any other industry, some aspects of the industry continue to revert to antiquated gender expectations. The out-of-date notions claiming that it isn’t “ladylike” to smoke pot or that women aren’t as well-versed as men when it comes to cannabis, are still common attitudes within the industry.
Often times, women who have children have it just as bad, if not worse, because they get labeled as a “bad mother” for wanting to light up.
Lily Salazar, a long-time member of the cannabis workforce in Los Angeles, explains how the industry is evolving, but still has hurdles to overcome when it comes to the gender gap, and how women are treated and perceived.
“People always seem shocked when they find out I have a kid and work at a dispensary – But I compare it to moms who drink a glass of wine at the end of the day to relax. Same idea, just different substances.”
Even after 10 years of experience working in the marijuana field, Salazar says she still finds herself having to justify her reasoning for being apart of the marijuana industry due to the old gender-based stereotypes women experience on a day-to-day basis.
“I’ve had patients approach me asking for my opinion on a strain, then minutes later they’re talking with my male co-worker to make sure they were getting something good, or that I wasn’t misleading them,” Salazar said. “You almost have to work harder to gain trust because you’re a female and people assume you don’t know as much as a guy. Or, they think your tolerance is lower because you’re a chick. People look at you and straight up assume you’re just working there because you’re cute.”
Salazar explains that this idea of women being “less knowledgeable” can be linked to the way dispensaries conduct their hiring process, highlighting that the physical appearance of a female usually weighs the heaviest (versus what she actually knows) because sex sells. It probably also doesn’t help that genetics tell us that men are more drawn to sexually provocative images, so the appeal of using over-sexualized selling tricks seems more reasonable.
“Honestly, I think a lot of people legit think it’s still a male-driven industry and to some extent, it still is. You get challenged more as a female – or disregarded – so you have to be a bit more assertive in your approach,” Salazar said. “But that’s in any male-driven industry… women are more in the background and so you’re challenged everywhere you go.”
In an article for CNNMoney, Tom Adams, managing director of BDS Analytics, estimates “that the marijuana sales in the U.S. will rise to $21 billion in 2021,” making cannabis one of the most lucrative industries in the world. Naturally, those wanting to get involved are interested in making money, however, the problem here is that the approach of using sex to lure in buyers is only catered to one gender.
“I’ve had to submit a photo for every budtending job I’ve ever applied for – it’s been like that since day one, and I get why but times are changing,” she said. “Everyone is blazing nowadays. It’s not just dudes.”
The 2017 report from the Cannabis Consumer Coalition (CCC) actually shows that women smoke more weed than men, with more than 15 percent separating the two genders from one another. And while marijuana legalization continues to sweep the country one state at a time, support from public female figures like Whoopi Goldberg, Lady Gaga and Frances McDormand, have made strides on the improvement of how women in the industry are viewed today.
Organizations, like Women Grow, that were created for the sole purpose of breaking the sexist cycle, work to empower women to continue their involvement in the marijuana industry. Salazar agrees that this is the type of momentum that is needed to continue to push the industry in a more progressive direction.
“The industry will always need more women, but right now the industry needs more support from within,” said Salazar. “It’s so important for us to hold on to the passion and maintain that belief on why it is we chose to be apart of this industry. We can’t come this far just to be discouraged by sexist bullshit.”
The bottom line is: Marijuana is only going to continue to become more mainstream as states continue to decriminalize it. Our mothers, aunts, grandmas, sisters – are all getting high across the country, and deserve to be supported and represented within the industry. In a sense, it is like legalization of recreational and medicinal use has opened the stoner closet for women to come out and feel confident enough to own what they are passionate about. It has given the industry the opportunity to outgrow it’s past and begin again, and as more states continue to follow suit, it is imperative for the industry to detach itself from outdated sexist stereotypes, and embrace what women bring to the table.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, only about 32 percent of U.S. adults supported marijuana legalization in 2010, whereas 61 percent supported it in 2017. Although the support for marijuana has almost doubled in the last seven years, there are still lawmakers and members of the U.S. government that continue to believe the propaganda that followed marijuana prohibition 80 years ago.
In a Senate drug hearing in April 2016, then-Senator Jeff Sessions said, “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Since becoming the U.S. Attorney General in 2017, he has continued his anti-marijuana push well into 2018 while retelling washed-up gateway drug theories.
Marijuana can no longer be a victim of Reefer Madness.
The prohibition-era stigmas that continue to loom over the flourishing marijuana industry have unfortunately drawn in other obsolete social beliefs. Along with mainstream stoner stigmas, women within the industry are finding themselves coming across more gender-based stigmas, too.