WASHINGTON: The female marijuana plant, sold for its sticky psychoactive chemicals, is where the value lies in the pot industry.
But the industry has long been dominated by men and can be crassly sexist, particularly in underground pot commerce.
Women are relegated to supporting roles and sometimes blatantly viewed as sex objects, according to a study published this year. One Craigslist ad for pot trimmers posted by a grower in California sought a “good looking girl” willing to have sex. Another advertised that he’d pay extra for topless workers.
Legalization in Washington, though, should give women recourse for sexual harassment and withheld wages, and make the industry safer for women in general, said Lydia Ensley, a Seattle dispensary-operations manager.
She’s among a vanguard of women assuming prominent business and advocacy roles in what has long been a guys’ club.
There’s Alison Holcomb, the ACLU lawyer who drafted the state’s legal pot law; and Sharon Foster, chairwoman of the state agency drawing up rules; and Greta Carter, founder of a group trying to bring standards and ethics to pot-commerce, to name just a few.
For support and networking, locals have even started a monthly gathering of Women of Weed, which has grown dramatically with each meeting, according to its founder Aimée “Ah” Warner, CEO of Cannabis Basics.
“Quite literally by making cannabis a legitimate business they made it safer for women,” Ensley said. “It’s a whole new day.”
Making women feel more comfortable about marijuana is key to ending prohibition, according to Wendy Chapkis, a University of Southern Maine sociology professor. Women vote more than men, and the gap is growing among younger voters. “While smoking may culturally be a ‘guy thing,’ voting is increasingly a ‘girl thing,’ ” Chapkis wrote in an academic article titled “The Trouble with Mary Jane’s Gender.”
The more that women influence pot culture, the more they make other women at ease with it. That was crucial, according to Chapkis, to last year’s voter-approved initiatives legalizing weed in Colorado and Washington.
Initiative 502 in Washington sought to close the gender gap at the polls by having women appeal to women in campaign ads. “Women are the secret weapon in this business,” said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “Now that women are really starting to become involved in marijuana reform, you see people listening.”