Though the world of cannabis might seem like a boys club, women are no strangers to appreciating and using the plant. March is Women’s History Month, so we’re taking the opportunity to shine a light on some of the women who have found purpose, empowerment, and solace in hemp and marijuana.
Notable Women in Cannabis Past and Present
Women have been using cannabis far longer than one may think. Going as far back as ancient Egypt, women have been utilizing the plant for medical purposes for pain and stress relief, and in more recent history women have been fighting for its legalization for safe and equitable use.
Hatshepsut and ancient Egypt, 1400’s BC
Hatshepsut was one of the few female pharaohs in Egyptian history, and was said to use hemp to manage menstrual pain. The use of cannabis for medical purposes does not end there though. The Ebers Papyrus, an herbal medical text from ancient Egypt, also recommends the use of hemp to ease discomfort during childbirth. Depictions of Seshat, the ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom, knowledge, and writing, show a star-like leaf symbol on top of her headdress that many historians regard as cannabis.
Hildegard von Bingen, 1098 - 1179 AD
Hildegard von Bingen was a German nun during the Middle Ages, and was celebrated as a seer, physician, scholar, and abbess. Von Bingen wrote in her health guide Physica that hemp could be used for a variety of treatments, and recommended applying a healing hemp cloth to soothe wounds, and eating hemp to reduce other types of pain. Modern day scientists and doctors, like Ethan B. Russo, have confirmed that her early studies about -- what she referred to as -- “green power” have been correct as can be seen in modern CBD and cannabis use.
Princess of Ukok, Circa 500 - 401 BC
In 1993, historians unearthed a 5th century mummy of a 20-something-year-old woman buried with cannabis in Russia. Scientists determined she died from breast cancer and a bone infection, but concluded she likely consumed cannabis to help with the pain. Belonging to a tribe called the Pzyryks, she is now known as the Princess of Ukok, the Siberian Ice Maiden and/or Altai Lady.
Margaret Mead - 1901 - 1978 AD
Margaret Mead was a renowned anthropologist who testified before Congress in favor of the legalization of marijuana on October 27, 1969. In her testimony, she said, “It is my considered opinion at present that marijuana is not harmful unless it is taken in enormous and excessive amounts. I believe that we are damaging this country, damaging our law, our whole law enforcement situation, damaging the trust between the older people and younger people by its prohibition, and this is far more serious than any damage that might be done to a few over-users, because you can get damage from any kind of overuse.”
She went on to add that the use of marijuana was common in other parts of the world, “In the West Indies, people smoke marijuana to get through a hard day’s work and after they have done the hard day’s work they smoke another bit of marijuana to relax and enjoy the evening.”
The New Guard
Though we’re thankful for all of the women of the past who have paved the way for today’s present industry, there are many modern day female entrepreneurs and cannactivists who continue bringing the wonders of cannabis into the mainstream. Women have been underrepresented in the cannabis industry in recent years, but the number of women making their mark is growing. There’s a push from the inside to empower more women as leaders pushing equality in the workplace and cannabis industry.
Packer is the first Executive Director and General Manager of the Department of Cannabis Regulation, where she advises the City of Los Angeles on cannabis law, policy and regulation and oversees the City’s licensed commercial cannabis market.
Ms. Packer has a history of fighting for equitability in the cannabis space. Prior to working with the City of Los Angeles, she served as California Policy Coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, where she worked to ensure the successful and fair implementation of various cannabis policy reforms. Before this, she also served as Campaign Coordinator for Californians for Responsible Marijuana Reform, a social justice-centered campaign in support of the 2016 Adult Use of Marijuana Act.
Billingsley is the founder and CEO of Akerna, a cannabis industry technology company. She’s the first woman to lead a cannabis company to trade on the NASDAQ, as well as the first cannabis ancillary company to be listed on the NASDAQ.
Billingsley earned her degree in Communications and Computer Science from the University of Georgia, and later became the founder and CEO of Zoco, a technology services firm serving clients across the nation.
Along with her brother, Allen Hackett, Montmarquet is the founder of MD Numbers, Inc., an integrated cannabis company that includes cultivation, distribution, retail customers, and the equity community located in the Bay Area of California. Her commitment to producing and distributing quality cannabis while still keeping honesty, ethics, and equity at top of mind made her an easy choice for our list.
As she told High Times, “I want the industry to produce cannabis with ethical and sustainable standards. Focusing on community reinvestment, small business participation, legacy operators, and those that have been negatively impacted by our racist penal system.”
Dr. Chanda Macias
Dr. Macias is the CEO of Illera Holistic Healthcare, and Chairwoman of Women Grow. She is a Ph.D. and MBA, and graduated from Howard University in 2001 with a concentration in Cell Biology. She’s the first Black female entrepreneur to own a multistate cannabis operation, and a top research scientist in the biomedical space.
Dr. Macias also worked with HBCU, The Southern University and A&M College, to launch a CBD line, making them the first university to ever do so.
Haq is the Founder and President of Cannaclub, and the Director of Education of NORML since the beginning of 2021. She launched the Cannaclub at her alma mater, UCLA, and the organization can now be found across the country. It’s designed to, “ignite student engagement in the cannabis space to create a community centered around interdisciplinary research, social innovation, and entrepreneurship,” according to the UCLA chapter’s website.
Modern Women and Cannabis Consumption
CFN Media Group released an article in 2019 explaining that women are the fastest growing consumers of cannabis. According to the Cannabis Consumers Coalition (CCC), women now consume cannabis more than men; with 53% of women having tried it, compared to just 42% of men.As cannabis continues to expand into the wellness industry, it’s safe to say the footprint women are making via this avenue is huge.
An article from cannabis data analytics company, Headset, explains female consumers are more geared towards wellness, while men typically care more about intensity and go for something like a concentrate. It’s important cannabis companies marketing to women keep their preferences in mind, wellness being a huge one. It’s important that ingredients are healthy and sustainably packaged, and that the overall experience of the product is inclusive to women.
Headset also released some data comparing male and female cannabis consumers:
- 40% of women prefer flower
- 13.8% of women consume edibles
- 6.9% of women like pre-rolls
- 2.6% of women apply cannabis topicals
- 1.6% of female consumers like capsules
- 0.8% of women consume cannabis beverages
This data showed men and women consume at nearly equal rates in each category. Jessica Lukas, VP of consumer insights at BDS Analytics, said women are more likely to use cannabis for “functional reasons”, and that women tend to look for consistency and control in their cannabis products. “There are some differences in the way females think and behave,” she said. “We do see females a bit more likely to consume because of anxiety and physical ailments.”
Based on this data, an ideal cannabis brand geared towards women might look like the following:
- Wellness focused, with an emphasis on high-quality and clean ingredients
- Sustainable packaging, as women are typically more eco-friendly than men (not a hard rule, of course)
- Championing a cause you truly care about. Women like feeling emotionally connected to the brands they buy from, and want to know they’re doing something meaningful with their money
- Offer a consistent, controlled product with complete transparency
- A brand with many different consumption methods available, to tailor to each individual woman
The Future (of Cannabis) is Female
The cannabis industry is excited about including more women in the space whether it be as a product user or as a cannabis entrepreneur. At Toast, we are looking forward to continuing to produce products that women can trust and can use in a variety of ways. We think it’s equally as important to utilize the benefits of cannabis and hemp for pain relief as it is to celebrate the moments that matter. Whether it be taking our CBD Full Spectrum Hemp Extract for focus with your morning coffee, indulging in a CBD chocolate supplement after a long day, or inhaling a Toast Emerald pre-roll to celebrate a night out (or in), Toast is excited to help elevate and empower women to live their best lives.