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Shredding The Social Stigma Between Women And Marijuana


women marijuanaBy Simone Fischer

As I navigate my way through the cannabis industry, I can’t help but wonder about its current relationship with women. Most of the time when I do find visible women within the community, I see “420 nurses” or other types of scantly-clad females.

I find it interesting that despite the rampant sexual objectification of women in the cannabis industry, women are still often faced with the stigma of using cannabis in the first place. Some have gone as far to say that using cannabis is an “unladylike” or “unappealing” habit for a woman to have. As far as I know, using cannabis knows no gender, but many women are confronted with inherent shame when opening up about it.

Why can’t we see more Diane Fornbachers and Sabrina Fendricks?

I have a theory.

Lets go back to 1949 during the time when propaganda around “Reefer Madness” was peaking. Kristen Gwynne’s article on Alternet teases out some of the issues in the film She Shoulda Said ‘No!’. The story line revolves around a girl who experiments with cannabis which consequently heightens her sexual promiscuity, undoubtably portrayed in a negative light. First off, causation does not prove correlation. Smoking weed does not inherently make you a slut.

Secondly, this type of thinking promotes the same kind of victim blaming that we also see with alcohol intoxication. The idea that if women choose to use these substances, the consequence of rape or other forms of sexual violence is a given. This is victim blaming and slut-shaming.

The previous generation of America has systematically used women’s sexualities to discourage the use of cannabis. “Don’t smoke weed unless you are willing to risk your self-worth and/or reputation”. This is another example of the sexist double standards that often applies to women, while leaving men unexamined in the same light. The purity myth when applied to cannabis works to discourage female experimentation with cannabis, which is still happening today.

If women still feeling guilty about opening up about smoking pot, the chances of them being involved within the cannabis world is slim. The unwarranted sexual stigma associated with women and cannabis usage has also worked to isolate women from the cannabis industry. Rape culture has been perpetuated through the prohibition mindset by the handy work of the U.S. government. Women should not be unfairly judged because they smoke pot.

You should be able to do your thing ladies. Stigma free.

In order to break the stigmas that female cannabis users are faced with, we must work to “come out” of the green closet as women. To successfully legitimize cannabis in society at large, women must recognize and validate our own experiences and usage. This alone can be daunting due to the harsh backlash women often endure when deviating from gender norms. Mothers are especially criticized for their cannabis use which brings up serious race, class, and gender issues.

Women must start recognizing the responsibility of claiming their experiences with cannabis. But with that said, if the cannabis industry wants to succeed in the inclusion of women without stigma, the issues on gender oppression must be addressed.

Lets work together to create a cannabis industry that everybody can relate too.

Simone Fischer recently graduated from Portland State University with a Bachelors Degree in Women’s and Gender Studies and a Minor in Philosophy, where she worked in the PSU Office of Graduate Studies. Prior to making the switch to Women’s studies, Simone was pre-med so her interests have always been rooted in medicine. Currently, she pens thought provoking pieces for our blog and works as a Front Desk Representative at Brightside Community Foundation.

Source: Brightside PDX


About Author

Johnny Green


  1. I’ve decided I want to be purple. Now, I just have to find some other purple people to puff my pot with :)

  2. Don’t get me wrong here i do still LOVE my gauze skirts and tie-dye but i won’t buy one from walmart. It’s not out by any means and i’m one of the last people in the world (i think) that still wears patchouli every day. LOL but yes a nice eclectic mix from all walks of life would be great to see. I was just upset when i read the article title about Smashing the Stigma and then clicked here and there she was again. We who aren’t just “hey 420 yo!” come from so many walks (and rolls) of life we should be portrayed more like every day normal people that we are. Moms, dads, old, young and in between, Christians, heathens, and atheist Purple green yellow blue black and whites of every sexual or non orientation they have! Thanks for hitting the point correctly with your colorful rainbow comment. As always… Peace

  3. Marcus, I figured if David Cameron used the word, it couldn’t be that bad. I could be wrong. It happens.

  4. I think what bugs me about these kinds of photos (more so than the fashion) is that the people always seem to be overly focused on their pot. The pictures you suggest of happy MMJ patients sounds really good. There’s a photo on another thread on this website of a guy holding a huge bud — and boy, does this guy look happy (and perhaps a little medicated).

    I’m sure as more people come out of the closet, we will see different pictures and a more diverse set of models within those visuals. It seems to me that black people and Latinas are not represented at all, so a more colorful rainbow would be good too. Along with LGBT representation.

    And what’s wrong with tie-dye? I really like tie-dye, so does that mean I’m out of fashion? (Now, ask me if I care.) :D

  5. Extremely skanky LOL No, I must have missed that one, wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised LOL I would imagine *ptoo*

    Thank you for the information, nothing pisses me off more than someone taking over a good hearted organization, trashing it and making the entire cause look incompetent and disorganized. Hopefully the new group is a lot more cautious who they let into their fold in the future.

  6. I was just going to post the same thing, and saw you did already. Women pot smokers wear a lot more hats than the hippy look. Johnny needs to shred that stigma, (and smoke it?)

  7. Holy cow! I’m glad I’m not dwelling in the same places you are. I hardly ever see that in my haunts, thankfully. I guess that’s why I thought it was a guy.

  8. Marcus Henry Weber on

    LOL is that what that was? I looked really close and couldn’t tell.

    Of course I love the bud, I’m from British Columbia. Sativa/Indica blend in the morning/afternoon and pure Indicas from the Volcano all night long, my friend.

  9. Pictures of every day people would be great. Whatever you look like would be fine, hell you and your friends! Get Sari in there too! I know lots of just regular looking people. i am a simple beanpole no makeup, never fancy, jeans & tanktop girl (usually dirty from my job) so i personally look like a dead person in photos, so it won’t ever be me. Even dirty ole hippies like me really don’t wear headbands much anymore and today’s tie-dye is tacky huh? I know there are a lot of dreadlocks out there… my daughter has em… but we do own hairbrushes. I know a couple of women that smoke an 18 inch bong and dress like Hilary for crimony sake! I just hate that picture being so “status quo”. I have a picture i wanted to attach but it’s too big (and i can’t work this stupid thing) but it is a friend of mine in a wheelchair surrounded by 10 inch tops with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen that would be a great image! I’m just sick of being looked upon like “potheads” even though i am and will always be exactly that. Love your stuff always PK!

  10. Sarijuana: Now that I think about it, you’re right, it’s a guy. British women probably don’t use that term, at least not anymore.

  11. I’m afraid that a lot of the pictures these guys take would end up looking similar to this one. (Just kidding!)

    I’m sitting here thinking about what kind of pictures I would want to see. I was watching a video the other day with Chris Hayes on MSNBC doing a cannabis story, and, sure enough, a bunch of cannabis lovers are puffing away. And it’s always a little jarring to see a huge bong. Perhaps pipes should look more like tobacco pipes? Would that make it more acceptable-looking?

    Sure, most of us smoke the bud, but that majority may change as the MMJ industry matures and legalization continues.

    So, what kinds of visuals do we want to see during cannabis media coverage?

  12. Dude, Shulman is skanky. Did you see the video of her on HuffPost? She made a fool of herself, along with all the other nasty things she has done. I spit on her! (How do you spell out a verbal spitting sound?)

    The International Women’s Cannabis Coalition is fairly new, headed up by the young lady that Shulman spit on, and including a bunch of women from Shulman’s old group.

  13. Which is why I posted the comment, below, about how the Brits use certain words. A similar comment on TWB recently included the word they use for a cigarette over there in England.

    Hey, didn’t you like my gorgeous photo of the hot-air balloon bumble bee flying into the sun? Doesn’t it make you want to learn how to fly? I didn’t take it, so feel free to tell me how amateurish it is. :D

    And while I have your attention, what are you doing on The Weed Blog, anyway? Love the bud?

  14. Marcus Henry Weber on

    Pure speculation! Actually I don’t know if it’s a he or she. It just reminded me of the vicious woman-on-woman hate I’ve seen so much.

  15. There has been a huge surge of republican state legislators wanting to get on the MMJ bandwagon ever since Dr, Gupta’s CNN special. Sadly though, they seem to be only wanting the high CBD strains to be allowed, which pretty much limits it to those with epileptic disorders like Dravets Syndrome and shuts out the children with cancer and other ailments or other legitimate patients. Even though Weed helped open the door for Cannabis debate to become dinner table discussion, there was really nothing on other ailments other than the gentleman in the nursing home or the 17 year old boy with his spasming diaphragm. It should have been at least a 4-5 part special, not a single segment that was given a time slot that competed with popular weekend prime time shows.

  16. I’m not familiar with them, no, not that I’m aware of. But yes, Ms. Shulman has gotten quite a lot of negative press since last early November when it was exposed by regional directors of Million Marijuana Moms jumping ship and saying why. It’s quite a very nasty thing she had done.

  17. I don’t know about you guys but i am sure sick of that picture… we don’t all look like that either. i know I’m late to this party but if the article is about breaking the social stigma, lose that pict! I mean i love that girl for standing out for weed like she does but it is really getting tired. come on WB guys get out more see some people. take some new pictures and help us to change that stigma you are discussing here. Even tired old hippies like me don’t look like that anymore. How bout a business suit or a beauty of a plus size girl? anything but headbands and tie-dye and ratty hair. sorry girls rant over :)

  18. Just wondering…why do you think anonymouse is a woman? I was leaning the other way, but I’m often wrong.

  19. Ah, so you are familiar with the infamous Ms. Shuman. Are you familiar with the International Women’s Cannabis Coalition? What’s your opinion?

  20. Get to know people first and gain their trust, and do NOT bring Cannabis up directly, you’ll be labeled a narc faster than you will think and you’ll never find it. Just be cool and the contact(s) will appear before you know it, most likely through casual conversation about something completely unrelated. Just be patient, you may have to be smokeless for awhile.

  21. Awesome for you to smoke the sacred herb :) However, as much as I hate to break this to you, Ms. Shulman is no longer revered within the Cannabis community as she’s now mired in a nasty controversy as she’s taken over the Million Marijuana Moms for personal self promotion.

  22. Pray tel, let us all know why you think it’s unladylike for a female to smoke? Methinks your notions of societal norms are quite archaic and needs to be updated.

  23. Marcus Henry Weber on

    Oh, yes, I refer to sub-intelligent fools quite often as sub-intelligent fools. But the rest of your post was nonsensical. You seem intent on projecting upon me some kind of preconceived persona based on a few comments; that’s your silly idea. Like I said, you are on some kind of tangent which has little to do with me, personally, so please continue as you see fit, until you find yourself satisfied.

    By the way: My initial comment was telling a total bitch (who called everyone twats for no reason), to smoke a joint, because they were being a total bitch. Is this confusing to you? Would you like to lecture me some more? Do you feel superior enough yet, or would you like to allow your pathological need to.. do.. whatever it is you feel the need to do… more space to flail about?

    Also, have you enjoyed “borrowing” my phrases? Interesting to notice how transparent that tactic really appears. I wonder if you notice that you’ve done it. I’ll take it as a sincere compliment.

    Thanks for the typing practice.

  24. Um… did you not realize that your disqus is public? After reading a few of these kinds of comments in your dashboard, I chose just one of the name-calling, belittling terms you use frequently, and tried to show you how meaningless it was. If you choose not to learn something from this little experience, well, that’s your problem.

    But something tells me you’re not the type of person that worries about education; or one that is interested in having a learning experience. I mean, what exactly is your initial comment supposed to mean? Like, nothing?

  25. Marcus Henry Weber on

    Did you read the original comment? I’m responding in kind. (I have only a vague idea what you are ranting about; it bears little resemblance to me. However, I am loathe to disturb anyone’s pathological projections, so don’t bother yourself too much about it.)
    Something tells me you are the type of person who prefers to have a long-winded last word, so please feel free to do so.

  26. You enjoy belittling people, don’t you? Or is “sub-intelligent fool” a new term of endearment? Feeling grown up now that you get to use adult words, even ones with hyphens?

    Here are the words related to subintelligent in the Urban Dictionary: shit for brains, stupid, beans, beef, Bush, christ, christian, cretin, George W. Herbert, idiot, moron, pig, prez, republican, retarded, subhuman, Texan, and Texas. Do these describe the kind of people you hurl such insults at? Or do they better describe you.

    You did notice that anonymouse left that comment a month ago, right? So, you trolling?

  27. Marcus Henry Weber on

    Smoke a joint and relax. Do you wonder why everyone who smokes Cannabis is WAY nicer than you? Food for thought.

  28. No matter if it may look unladylike. But Cannabis is a great aphrodisiac (the best I know) – so I don´t care how it looks when women smoke. I know these girls are able to enjoy – and that means a lot to me…

  29. “The word twat has various functions. It is a vulgar synonym for the human vulva, but is more widely used as a derogatory epithet, especially in British English.” — Wikipedia

    “The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it – too many twits might make a twat.” — David Cameron

  30. nah it’s just unladylike to smoke in general. but if you want to look like a twat, smell like a twat and act like a twat, go right ahead

  31. I Can relate to being stigmatised when smoking a joint. Just resently i stood up for myself after being ashamed for many years. I have never doubted that cannabis was the right choice for me

  32. Have you never heard of Cheryl Shuman she is a great Marijuana activist they call her the “Martha Stewart of Marijuana” and she has done a great deal for the Cannabis movement… My girlfriend and I (lesbian couple) are big into this and I am PROUD to say I SMOKE POT DAILY!!!

  33. I see no difference between men or women smoking weed. It does not mean any thing other then they enjoy smoking.

  34. Where did he say anything about sex? Just that they smoke his weed and not buy any, I’ve known people like that both men and women that will be happy to share mine but won’t buy any themselves. They no longer share mine either. #weedwhore is also “whore” for marijuana. Constantly asked to get smoked up for free, and is still a newbie.

  35. Since I smoked primarily with my all-female-dorm mates, I never had this problem. I’m old for a hippie but glad of the “girl’s” dorm. It never occurred to us that we shouldn’t. We had a lot of fun and were more than ready for Sgt Pepper a year or so later.

  36. You need different female friends if all they do is smoke your weed Clint.
    #weedwhores…..really? Grow up and find real women as friends.

  37. I am a woman, and although I see that stereotype everywhere, some of the biggest smokers I know are women. There are a myriad of reasons for marijuana’s “man’s” thing stigma, yet few are actually related to a difference in the high that men and women get. I believe that the primary reason for marijuana’s stigma as a “man’s” thing, is that in today’s society, women are expected to put a greater emphasis on pleasing others and on maintaining a positive reputation than men. From an early age, I found drug use to be considered “cool” or “badass” for males yet trashy for females. The “party girl” image goes hand in hand with “slut shaming” and “rape culture”, which have become serious problems in today’s society.

    In relation to the subject of your book, I have found that appetite and the likelihood of getting the “munchies” is more of a personal thing and not gender based. Simply by speaking with other marijuana users, I find that some women “munch out” uncontrollably when high yet others do while drunk. I have noticed a correlation as well in alcoholics being more prone to “munching” while drunk yet not while high. However, this is just an observation I have made and may be a coincidence. As far as my own smoking habits go, I have an additive personality and a strong affinity for food so I am inclined to eat when using most any substance. I find that when I get into the habit of being stoned all day, every day, then my body regulates eating around smoking and I eat a relatively healthy, normal amount. When I am smoking off and on however, I “munch out” excessively while high. All in all, to answer your question, I believe that, yes, women do “get high like men get” and that marijuana is not more enjoyable for men, it is just more socially accepted for men.

  38. The only BS I’m reading here is your comments. You must live in a rough neighborhood where women use their sexuality as leverage to smoke your weed. A-get better female friends
    B- It says the “unwarranted sexual stigma” which means we, as women are sick of men like you having this mentality
    C- If you’re just “going along” with it, you are adding to the stigma!
    Seriously Mr. Micko..get your bull shit straightened out before spewing info that groups ALL women together as a whole who have this “stigma”.
    Ps, you made yourself sound like a pig.

  39. You should all move to Colorado. You can walk in to a dispensary and buy it…..*GASP* legally! You can grow it on your home, up to six plants per adult and you could even do it as a WOMAN. The only “stigma” is that we need men to get weed for us, uhm, no. I’m perfectly capable of procuring herbage on my own. So drop the stigmas and treat us equally, EVEN where weed is concerned!
    Ps, I agree, unless they pay my bills then their opinion matters naught!

  40. Shannon Ireland on

    Wow thanks Clint for adding to the author’s point. What makes you think that a woman is going to trade sex for weed? Because she is a woman. Typical words from a misogynist.

  41. What? I mean, the only ‘presumption’ about women and cannabis that i know from around here is that women dont generally roll their own joints. I roll my own and take pride in it. never got sneered at for smoking weed as a girl, just for smoking weed in general.

  42. All I’m going to say is that they need to PAY for there OWN weed and not smoke mine. >.< #weedwhores

  43. Dude im a chick and i smoke weed. And i dont give a fuck if people have an issue. It makes me happy . Unless they pay my bills there say is as valueable as dirt.

    Im high right now lol

  44. “The unwarranted sexual stigma associated with women and cannabis usage” It is not they do this for everything they do they make it sexual they do it to themselves. Males just like to go along….. Less bs please .. ….

  45. I just wanna know where can one in SC get some smoke from. i am not from here and don’t know anyone, uuuuggghh!

  46. “Real Men” and fair-minded people are not afraid of strong, intelligent women. One day, strong, intelligent women will rule the world!

  47. Do not beat yourself up about “coming out.” Discrimination against cannabis users is still alive and well and will be for some time. (It’d be one thing if Dr. Gupta had said he was a cannabis user, instead of just heralding the benefits of CBD oil for kids.) I would love to be out on a podium somewhere with a microphone, but that isn’t really me anyway. Can’t we be happy with just feeding ideas to the people with the microphones?

    Sexuality can be a tool for men and women! (Never a tool for me, but more power to them!)

    I do not worry about stigma. I could care less what other people think (that’s obvious, isn’t it?). I worry about the feds deciding to shut all this down. Who will they come after? Will the DEA and local law enforcement go after MMJ patients to try to make them look bad? The Supreme Court recently ruled that cops have authority to search you no matter what your alleged offense. Women have been assaulted by cops in this kind of search, out on the road, in public.

    I fear The Man, not stigma.

  48. I do believe there is social stigma associated with smoking weed, but I am not sure if it is a gender thing. I am different in that I’ve never lived by the rules of social gender limitations, ever. My first career was as a printer, (press operator), then I ran print shops. After that I started my own successful business doing computer graphics, and then simultaneously opened an inn, which is what I’m doing now. All my careers have been successful. My husband of 33 years has always been a weed smoker and was also successful in his 2 life careers. He never gave it up as I did, but was an infrequent smoker, albeit he always had a stash.

    I smoked weed from high school until I was in my 40’s. My girlfriends all smoked too. I never experienced any gender stigma in my circles. We raised our kids to be productive, self confident, assertive and compassionate members of society. I gave up weed for a host of reasons, none of which were because of the gender stigma. I picked up smoking again in my late 50’s because of my body’s “structural difficulties” that mainly came from playing sports and trying to keep up with the guys when I did so. (I did keep up with them , BTW!) Even after many surgeries my pain levels were awful, but are now controlled with mostly cannabis.

    I definitely knew more people who used marijuana than not for most of my life until mid-life, and like me, many of my friends who quit using on a regular basis are now coming back to it for medical reasons, and because they have a bit more recreational time on their hands. Still don’t see any gender stigma creeping in.

    Stigma in general is another story. Coming out of the closet is something I struggle with every day. I’ve written a book about my experience with medical and recreational use of marijuana, I have a blog about it too (both anonymously) and I spread the word to as many people that I can about marijuana as medicine, and how it should be available to everyone to use as they wish and without a note from their doctor. (Unless I come out, I’ll have a hard time marketing either book or blog). On a more personal, one-to-one level I preach to people my age and older, and have met some very receptive ears. I feel strongly enough about marijuana, but not enough to jeopardize the lifestyle I enjoy presently. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is and I beat myself up over it every day. The decision to come out is something my loved ones have to contend with the repercussions of, and this is my real stumbling block. I don’t give a shit about what people think of me. But I’m in a position now to reach more different ears than the normal person and I feel disgusted that I don’t take advantage of it more than I already do.

    My generation has fed the social stigma of marijuana as much as anything that happened in the ’30s, ’40s, ’70s or any other decade, because we have alone created and perpetuated the Cheech & Chong/Jay & Silent Bob characters and the typical “stoner” stigma associated with smoking weed. We’re all guilty of it at some level, and until more users like myself stand out and show how everyday marijuana users don’t live up to the labels we’ve created for them, the longer it will take to change things, Sigh. But not yet. Not today.

    ps – No beef with the 420nurses, except they should do more to dispel the myths beside showing up looking pretty. Women are powerful creatures, sexuality is a powerful tool. They should use it more wisely.

  49. My name is Art Glass I am the author of The Marijuana Diet. I have been curious if women do not get high like men get and if marijuana is more of a “man’s” thing. I would like to hear what women have to say about this.

  50. Wendy Loughery on

    that’s the way people are around here -these people have know idea what I have they just assume im a pot head and don’t know anything -so closed minded,i think people are afraid of woman that take the upper hand on there own -and the women that I have met that do smoke are strong intelligent woman and I think that scares some people lol

  51. Wow. I had no idea “420 Nurses” was a thing until I googled it, just now. I thought the cannabis industry would have more discerning customers than the alcohol, automotive, and firearm industries.

  52. I havn’t smoked pot in 10 years. Back when I did most women I knew wouldn’t smoke weed in groups but would with one other person, I did get quite a few calls for weed from normally non-smoking women friends when their Aunt Flo visited though.

  53. You Go Girl! Or in the voice of Helen Reddy, “I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big too ignore”!

  54. It took me a couple of weeks to notice that this website uses the same stock photos over and over again. It would be nice if they could be a little more inventive, but maybe they have to buy stock photos, for copyright reasons or something? Or maybe they’re lazy? Or maybe they’re more creative with the written word than visual formats?

  55. I guess I generally see the problem more as a fear of illegality than a type of gender discrimination (except where moms are concerned). If the pretty cannabis models with the big breasts are off-putting (or seen as exploitative), maybe we should be talking about puritan inhibitions along with gender norms. I can’t help but wonder if the tables were turned, would men have a problem with partially-nude male cannabis models? Are there such ads (it’s just internet courtesy to provide links)?

  56. Sondra Rene Eisenman on

    I am a woman, with a medical marijuana prescription. I am married to man that rarely drinks alcolhol and has maybe partaked in in form of cannibis use three of four times in his lifetime, he is just okay with that and supports me in my activism. I am a mother of two children, a two year old boy and eight month old girl. I am a photographer and a student working towards a BA in psychology. I beleive in the medical benefits of marijuana and the social use of it as well, even though my use is intended for the use of relieving anxiety, depression, insomnia and migraines/ headaches and various ailments that cause me pain. I do not use it all the time nor do I remain ” stoned” on a daily basis. I am a busy mom taking care of her children, home and work, i have many political, historical, and recreactional interest as well. I currently maintain a 3.7 gpa and have an I.Q range of 147-150. I am highly creative and intellectual, and yes I still like the 420 nurses because they are” models” and I am a photographer. I try try to convince them not to be ” sexy” I tell my truth, because my character , my reputation, my ability to take care of my kids have come into question because of slanderous allegations to the dept. Of child protective services, and they believe these sterotypes. I as a woman, should not have to give up my rights to my body or my children because of sterotypes. I am a woman. I am a human with rational and logical facilities to make my own choices about my health with and educated and inform decision making process that has been deemed immoral and incompetent.

  57. Umm, a lot of women smokers are not hippies either. You should have had a regular woman as the photo-piece. One stereotype does not trump another.

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