It cannot be denied that more men report using cannabis than women. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.6 percent of men have used cannabis compared to just 5 percent of women. Further, a 2013 Gallup poll reports that more men (47 percent) have admitted to trying marijuana than women (30 percent).
However, as many legalization advocates are noticing, there is a need to appeal to women in order to expand the cannabis market, but there are hurdles to jump before that can happen. Unfortunately, weed has a history of marginalizing women, especially in pop culture.
On the other hand, men are often shown casually indulging. The industry as a whole has targeted male audiences through using busty, scantily-clad women. The author of “Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America,” Bruce Barcott, pointed out:
“One of the problems marijuana culture has had is sexism that is built into the industry – everything from product labeling to product advertising.”
The landscape of women and marijuana, however, is making a positive shift. As the legalization movement has made large strides, famous women like Sarah Silverman, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and Rihanna have openly talked about using cannabis.
Beyond pop culture, however, the cannabis industry must find a way to change the negative and false stereotype of the cannabis consumer – a lazy, sloppily-clad stoner– which has been a direct result of prohibition propaganda. There are many groups working to reverse that negative image. For example, the “marijuana moms” in Los Angeles are advancing the idea that pot use does not equate to poor parenting. That line of thinking is exactly what the industry needs to appeal to women, who are often the primary household caregivers.
As the trend moves away from a male-dominated agenda and into a female-friendly one, researchers have noticed the positive effects. Data from the Global Drug Policy Observatory reveals that women have been the deciding vote on many legalization issues. Specifically, when voters in Colorado passed Amendment 64, the law legalizing the recreational use and retail sales of marijuana in 2012, female support increased 7 percent. Whereas, polled support from males decreased one month before the vote. A similar phenomenon occurred in Washington just a few days prior to the vote.
Experts say the marijuana industry will find new ways to appeal to women. Jane West, co-founder of Women Grow, a network of leading women in the cannabis industry, told Time:
“In the not-so-distant future, women are going to become the dominant purchasers of cannabis products.”
West also noted that wellness products using cannabis will begin to replace anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medicine and sleep aids for many women. Many legal cannabis dispensaries are already standing up to the practice of sexism in the industry by refusing to carry products that show revealing images of women on the label, and opting instead for images of health. The businesses that make decisions like this one, industry leaders say, are the ones that will succeed.