Women And The Weed Business

I graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder, a school and town known for its liberal culture and equally liberal partying. Though marijuana wasn’t legal while I attended (medical cannabis was), tolerance prevailed, and every 4/20 at 4:20, students and town residents would converge on Farrand Field to celebrate weed’s big holiday. From afar, the quad looked like a fire had just been extinguished. Under a blue-gray haze of smoke, hundreds of kids got baked out of their minds, brandishing joints the size of shampoo bottles and cracking open plastic Easter eggs full of fresh buds. Stoned or not, you'd notice one thing about this gathering (aside from the fact that it was mostly white kids, and that law enforcement was present but not making arrests, which is fodder for a different article): They were almost all dudes. Their faces form a perfect composite of America’s perception of the pot smoker. Bros, bro.

Pot’s back-slapping, "I love you, man” culture isn't news—until recently, weed was an industry built mostly by men, and fetishized mostly by men. The shaft of a bong may indeed be elegant design, but if you’ve ever seen a guy show off his new smoking apparatus, the penis-measuring metaphor is hard to resist. Meanwhile, the stereotypical woman in cannabis culture looks like High Times’ wanton weed nymph. (The magazine publishes Miss High Times centerfolds, and runs articles like “Stoner Girls Rock!” featuring pictures of women holding dildo-like glassware, or lounging around in lingerie while they get stoned.) Or the objectified double-breasted bud tender that Ann Friedman has so well considered. Or the sexy power-broker whom Marie Claire has dubbed the stilletto stoner. Or the baked-into-androgyny deadbeat holed up in the dorm room across the hall. (To be fair, I’m not suggesting that all male cannabis professionals and users are misogynistic Scooby Doos.) American slang has a knack for giving stimulants the feminine: White Lady, China Girl, Golden Girl, Mama Coca, Aunt Hazel, Molly. And, of course, Mary Jane. Remember Cypress Hill’s 1993 “Hits From the Bong”? Sample lyrics: “She doesn’t complain when I hit Mary/With that flame I light up the cherry.” As Rap Genius points out, “This is a spousal abuse joke referring to Mary as an actual woman; she probably would complain if you didn’t set her on fire first.” That lyric wouldn’t play right if someone had decided to call marijuana Mr. James. Yet “none of the images of recreational cannabis consumers and activists available to women, including the stiletto stoner, the slacker schlubster, or the hot pot babe, speak to most women,” Wendy Chapkis writes in her paper, "The Trouble with Mary Jane’s Gender,” published last summer in the Humboldt Journal of Social Relations.

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