Originally published Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 8:04 PM
The marijuana industry and movement have long been a boys’ club. But a vanguard of women in Washington are breaking out of pot’s “pink collar ghetto,” the medical side. It’s important, advocates say, not only because women are key to reform and legalization, but also to*
By Bob Young /
Seattle Times staff reporter
Aimée “Ah” Warner, CEO and founder of Cannabis Basics, cooks up a batch of topical medications for pain relief, all legal. She has convened a group called Women of Weed because the marijuana industry and movement have long been male dominated.
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. …
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.”
Men are more likely than women to use pot, according to surveys and polls.
That disparity has shaped the pot industry and reform movement.
The industry is “heavily testosterone-driven, no question about it,” said Carter, who owns a Seattle medical-marijuana clinic and plans to seek a state license to grow and process recreational pot. “Men are risk-takers,” she explained.
Few women have wanted to venture into the outlaw world of illegal dealing, with its guns and aggressive competition, said Carter, a grandmother, retired from a career in banking.
Instead, women with a passion for the plant tended to gravitate to medical marijuana. In turn, medical marijuana has become “something of a pink-collar ghetto,” as Chapkis put it.
As Washington state creates a legal recreational-marijuana industry, aspiring entrepreneurs appear to be overwhelmingly male, said Hilary Bricken, an attorney whose firm specializes in advising pot businesses.
“Almost everyone coming to see us are young white men,” Bricken said. And that gender imbalance is more pronounced, she said, than in other industries, such as entertainment, that her firm Harris & Moure specializes in.
That male dominance is also found in the advocacy movement, where the top three national groups — National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Drug Policy Alliance — are headed by men, and their boards of directors have a masculine tilt….
Steph Sherer, head of a national medical-marijuana group, Americans for Safe Access, was stunned by the movement’s gender imbalance when she got involved over a decade ago.
Sherer recalled going to her first NORML conference in San Francisco, where almost half of the registrants were women but not a single one was a speaker. “I had never seen anything like that,” she said. “In San Francisco you have to try to not be diverse.”
With her background in criminal-justice activism, Sherer gathered a group of women in her hotel room. “They said, ‘Oh, it’s always like this,’ ” she recalled.
Sherer is still the only woman leading a national advocacy group. “I feel like I’ve been in ‘Mad Men’ a few times,” she said. “I literally had a donor at a meeting comment on my cleavage.”
From the Seattle Times’ comments, FG writes:
I, for one, am appalled that the drug dealing industry could be so sexist. What a horrible glass ceiling. I thought this was a nice family-friendly and socially important industry for our state. This is what all the press has led me to believe. I’m beginning to think that this whole marijuana thing is actually kind of shady.
* “But also to” what? you may be asking. Don’t ask. It’s a dope article.