“Women and Weed” Survey Highlights That Female Cannabis Users Still Feel Stigmatized
Released today on International Women’s Day, the survey suggests that societal perceptions affect users’ openness about consumption, but women are increasingly embracing the plant nonetheless.
Published on March 8, 2018

The relationship between women and weed is a complex one, where an inherent symbiosis between the medicinal power of cannabis and health issues specific to women has been overshadowed by fear of judgement from society. Until recently, women who smoked openly tended to be labeled as "stoner chicks" (*sigh*), or sexualized in advertisements by cannabis brands in the same vein as alcohol ads. However, the Green Rush is transforming a once socially contentious relationship, opening a world of holistic wellness, as well as entrepreneurial endeavors for all sorts of cannabis enthusiasts.

April Pride, founder of Van der Pop, a cannabis lifestyle and accessory brand geared specifically towards women, is at the forefront of the movement to dissolve the annoying (read: sexist) stigmas associated with female cannabis use. Last fall, Van der Pop conducted a survey in partnership with Canadian Viewpoint Inc. that focused on women who had consumed cannabis, or were yet to consume but interested in trying it, to learn more about consumption behavior, general perceptions of the plant, and "forward-looking thoughts and areas of interest." Titled the "Women and Weed Survey," and released today on International Women's Day, the survey was based on responses from more than 1,500 subjects over the age of 19 across North America.

"So much is expected of women throughout their lives," Pride told MERRY JANE over email. "The byproducts of high expectations are stress and anxiety. Who can relax (or sleep!) when there is a constant need to prove yourself? And who doesn't want to take one less pill when possible? A single plant that holds the answer to these happiness-crushing concerns is efficient and natural. So it comes as little surprise that the top four reasons women consume cannabis are #4 Anxiety Reduction; #3 Stress Relief; #2 Relaxation; #1 Pain Relief."

The survey's findings indicate that fear of societal judgement is the driving factor behind women hiding their cannabis usage. 70% of women surveyed believe cannabis consumption carries a stigma. 72% say they don't want to be judged (in terms of their intelligence and decision-making capabilities), and 36% worry that open consumption will come to represent who they are in the eyes of others. Among the women surveyed who currently consume cannabis, 66% said they hide their usage. Interestingly, few respondents said they were worried cannabis would impact their health negatively. Rather, their fears stemmed from legal ramifications, price, insurance, and identity perception.

Pride explains, "The stigma women feel changes little in adult-use legal regions. Women's societal-based fears — judgement on purity and parenting — aren't as readily resolved. Hence the negligible difference between stigma in legal (66%) vs. non-legal states (70%)."

She continues, "There's no question that there remains an unbelievable amount of 'reprogramming' to be done. The perpetual assumptions that continue to fuel stigma are rooted in fear and the need for a convenient narrative. However, access to medical research will be the driving force in dispeling this old thinking."

A lack of cannabis education is another factor in shaping some women's fear of weed. 62% of survey respondents stated they lacked a trusted resource for information, while 80% said they searched for info online. In total, only 21% of the women who took the survey felt they had a solid understanding of the science behind cannabis.

On a lighter note, women who use cannabis for specific needs say it's working well to actually address those needs. 56% of women feel cannabis is completely effective at addressing their specific issues, medicinal or otherwise, with 93% feeling it's at least somewhat effective.

Pride explains why weed and women is a match made in herbal heaven. "Specific to women, the endocannabinoid system maintains homeostasis related to pain, sleep, mood, memory, motor control, immune function, and body temperature, as well as metabolism and women's reproductive systems. I don't know a single woman who isn't at odds with one of these issues and would offer that they can, at their worst, upend a life that is already on the edge."

The potential cannabis has to transform the overall quality of women's lives is infinite. As a group whose been subject to just about every kind of scrutiny and persecution imaginable, we're not afraid of a fight or looking for novel ways to enhance our lives. As more women enter the cannabis space, and create brands that cater to our specific needs, the image of female users will continue to evolve from "irresponsible stoner" to "innovator," "wellness pioneer," and "entrepreneur." After all, weed is a female plant.

For more on Van der Pop, visit the company's website here

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Lindsay MaHarry
Lindsay MaHarry is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Vice, The Observer, Bullett, Gawker, Fanzine, and others. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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