Women in Cannabis by Lyss Harwood

Women and cannabis have gone hand in hand since some of the earliest civilizations. In some of the first hunter-gatherer settlements, women utilized cannabis, as well as other gathered herbs to heal. In ancient Sumer and Mesopotamia, the healing goddess Inanna, also known as Ishtar, had cannabis burnt by her cult following as an incense during worship. Ancient Egyptian women utilized cannabis in many ways such as making cannabis infused honey or by burning cannabis on hot bricks and inhaling the smoke, for all sorts of ailments such as depression and childbirth pain. In both the old and new testaments, it was written that Queen Sheba brought over to King Solomon many spices, one of which was called ‘kaneh-bosm’, translating from Hebrew to mean hemp aromatic, which we now know to be cannabis. The historical ties between women and cannabis is long and plentiful; even British monarch Queen Victoria had taken a cannabis tincture prescribed by her physician in 1890 for her menstrual cramps.

With women having such a rich and vast history utilizing cannabis, it is slightly surprising to see that cannabis industry, alike other sectors, is male-dominated. Although men outnumber women, that doesn’t make any less of the women in the cannabis industry who have made huge impacts towards the future of cannabis. One of those notable women is Alaska Cannabis Club founder Charlo Greene, whomost should  know of because of her bad-ass live television announcement, “I’m Charlo “Fuck it, I quit” Greene, and I’m credited with the legalization of marijuana in Alaska.” (Best quit story ever!) Jane West, founder of Women Grow, a for-profit entity that connects, educates and empowers women who are interested in becoming apart of the cannabis industry and Cheryl Shuman, cannabis entrepreneur, investor and founder of Kush magazine, are just a two of so many other notable women who have made an impact in the overall future cannabis industry.

Back at home here in Canada, though we may see less industry impact from women like Cheryl Shuman and Jane West, we have our own Canadian women who have made some incredible contributions in advocacy for the rights of medical marijuana patients. One of pioneers who has long been fighting for cannabis patient’s rights is Hilary Black. Her contribution began in 1997, when Hilary founded Canada’s very first medical cannabis dispensary, the ‘BC Compassion Club Society’. Her reason for starting the compassion club was her vision of “… helping people suffering from a wide range of illnesses to gain access to clean, affordable, high-quality cannabis in a safe and supportive environment.” In 2013 Hilary was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her contribution to Canadian society through her continued advocacy for medical marijuana patients and their right to access safe, quality and affordable medicine.

Another important woman in the Canadian cannabis industry is Jamie Shaw. Her first introduction to the industry was as a patient when she saw her physician about anxiety, and was referred to visit a compassion club to try medical marijuana. After trying cannabis and experiencing it’s benefits, she left her job to become a full-time patient advocate. Shaw has spent two decades advocating for Canadian cannabis patients, her most widely known contribution being her testimony in the Allard v. Health Canada trial, where plaintiffs set out to prove that the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) broke Canada’s Charter rights by forcing them to buy only from government licensed producers without allowing patients their right to grow their own medical marijuana if they so chose to. Ultimately the judge ruled that the MMPR indeed broke Canada’s Charter rights; a victory for all Canadian cannabis patients right to access safe, quality, affordable medication.

Patient, advocate, entrepreneur and chairwoman of Women Grow, Andrea Dobbs journey into the Canadian cannabis industry also began also while seeking medical relief. She was at the time perimenopausal, and decided to try cannabis as a solution to the many symptoms she was experiencing such as sore breasts, extreme itchiness and low libido. A very less than ideal first dispensary visit eventually inspired Andrea to co-found, The Village, a dispensary tailored to the needs of patients with more sensitive health care needs and those who may be more hesitant about trying cannabis. She wanted The Village to be a safe place for people who need help figuring out what will be effective for their specific symptoms, and those who need introductions and education on cannabis. Andrea prefers to focus more on non-inhalation cannabis treatments, such as microdosed edibles, infused bath bombs and bath salts.

Canadian trailblazers Hilary Black, Jamie Shaw and Andrea Dobbs are also just a few women in our industry who have made a difference. Doing research for this piece has inspired me on a personal level; I had no idea so many women I had never bothered to learn of have been building their own cannabis businesses, growing, advocating, researching; teaching, learning, healing and empowering… I truly had a difficult time deciding who to write about, and implore you to take some spare time and look up the many contributions women have made in the cannabis industry over the years! Though the female presence in the cannabis sector is the minority, I believe there is a very bright future for women looking to be apart of the future cannabis industry.

This industry holds a potential for both females (and those who are non-binary) that other industries haven’t; since the cannabis industry is just a seedling in terms of establishment, for the first time in history there will be an industry where decades of stigma, barriers and glass ceilings don’t exist. With this fresh, blossoming, modern industry, everyone should have an equal chance to climb the corporate ladder if they are willing to work for it. As long as there is women with interest and passion in being apart of the cannabis industry, I believe over time we will see so many more influential women like Hilary Black, Jamie Shaw and Andrea Dobbs, who will help shape the future of the marijuana industry.

If you are interested and passionate in cannabis, don’t dream it and do it! Educate yourself continuously (we never stop learning!), dedicate yourself to the goals you have in mind, be passionate and have a positive outlook always; it is only when we don’t try that we fail!

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