Legalizing cannabis is not just about making stoners feel more at ease when lighting up, it dismantles shameful race, gender, and economic inequalities resulting from the War on Drugs. It’s an act of Feminism. Marijuana may become the first billion-dollar U.S. industry in which there is no grass ceiling for female-identified people, especially those who are BIPOC.

Feminism

The War on Drugs on Feminism and Weed

While the numerous impacts of the War on Drugs are at least five blogworthy, here I’ll just briefly discuss it in order to point out how it has also targeted predominantly BIPOC females and feminism. The War on Drugs was started in 1971 by then-President Nixon in what, as his own top aid, John Ehrlichman, confessed, was mainly started and conducted as a means to go after the ones whom the Nixon administration  perceived as their two biggest enemies: “Black people” and “the antiwar left.”

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.

Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did. – John Ehrlichman

When Nixon declared the federal government’s War on Drugs, there were 200,000 people in prison and five decades later there are more than 2 million, where almost 80% of those in federal prison and around 60% in state prison for drug-related crimes are Black or Latinx. 

Breaking down these numbers even further, we see that 61% of females are serving federal time for nonviolent drug offenses and that Black, Native, and Latina women are more likely to be incarcerated than white females by 50%, 600%, and 20% respectively despite the reality that no one group uses weed at particularly. To say that the War on Drugs was and is racist is not an exaggeration of the truth. To say that it was and is anti-BIPOC female is also not an over-dramatization of facts, and to say that being anti-racist consistently intersects with being feminist is far from hyperbolic.

Feminism

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Women, Feminism, and Legalization

The majority of legalization activists in Colorado and Washington were females, especially females of color, between the ages of 30-50. In fact, female voters in both states are why weed was legalized, and in both cases, support from men decreased despite what they stated in pre-voting polls. Members of the LGBTQIA* community, which is made up of many female-identified folks, also played a major role in bringing about the legalization of weed in California.

As has often been the case in history, it was females, especially women of color and those on the outer fringes of mainstream society, who effected change. Women know that legalizing weed creates a more equal playing field for all women and BIPOC folk by eliminating the War on Drugs that unfairly discriminates against feminism and individuals based on race, gender, and class.

Feminism

Women in the Weed Industry

With legal pot sales in the U.S. projected to hit $33 billion in 2022 alone, female executive representation in this specific industry, which was once at 36.8% in 2019, was down to 22% in 2021, as highlighted in MJBizDaily’s autumn 2021 Women & Minorities in the Cannabis Industry report. However, while these stats are rather depressing, it is encouraging to see that some of the most influential cannabis companies in the States are steered by females. 

As well as being extremely successful, female leaders in positions of power in the cannabis industry are proactive in creating more opportunities for women within the industry along with providing mentorship. They are doing so via programs like the social equity program created by Amber Senter, co-founder of Supernova Women, which strives to empower women of color to be able to enter the marijuana industry. Another strong example is Shega Youngson of Canopy Growth, which is one of the largest cannabis countries in North America that is composed of a predominantly female team and where the majority of their teams are female-led. 

Working in the weed industry involves more than being a budtender, breeder, dispensary, and/or company owner. Medicine, law, science, tech, food, academics, etc. are all areas that also exist within the cannabis industry where women in these fields are able to find a place to advance and make their mark. Furthermore, females, especially Black women, are poised to be at the forefront in the field of cannabis science as they comprise the makeup of the majority of students.

Women in the cannabis industry, not just in the U.S. but overseas as well, are leading the way in educating their local communities about the numerous health benefits, especially pertaining to the health of those who were born into female bodies for issues such as osteoporosis and menstrual cramps, etc., of marijuana and how it can be used as both holistic medicine and a form of self-care.

Conclusion

When it comes to legalizing weed and working in the weed industry, what could be a stronger act of feminism than women supporting, mentoring, creating opportunities for, and sharing knowledge and access to financial resources with other women, as well as fighting for inclusion and equity for all who have been disenfranchised by the War on Drugs, which at its core was created by men to control and subjugate minorities.

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