An Industry of One's Own: Women and Weed
On July 1, 2016 I moved back to my hometown, Portland, Oregon. On September 1, 2016, I became an Unemployed Person or, as I have taken to calling it, a Freelance Writer. Both of these events have got me thinking a lot about weed.*
Oregon has an amiable relationship with weed. Famous potheads who have lived in Oregon include Ken Kesey, Courtney Love, the Jail Blazers, and my friend Amelia who, admittedly, isn’t famous but should be because she is the Misty Copeland of bong rips: each one so elegant and strong.+
Oregon likes weed so much that the state was the first to decriminalize possession under an ounce, making it a violation (like getting a parking ticket) rather than a crime (like, apparently, not wearing an undershirt to the VMAs). By 1998, Oregonians could grow and use weed for medical purposes and, last year, everybody (even your mom!) could legally obtain weed from licensed dispensaries just for funsies.
The legalization of weed has opened up a new market that a friend of mine likens to the wild west. It’s undefined and full of potential. There’s a lot of demand for weed in Oregon and now the government has given savvy entrepreneurs the go-ahead to supply that demand. People are grabbing their piece of the pot-brownie while they can, before the ghost of Philip Morris rises up to corner the market and cut your Purple Hindu Kush with formaldehyde, ammonia, and fiberglass to ultimately take you away to Flavor Country far before your time.
This transition from “legitimate business” to actual legitimate business has been significant for women who are using the weed industry to circumvent the glass ceiling. While they continue to be underrepresented, women find more leadership opportunities in the weed industry than in others. The Atlantic reports that “women make up about 36 percent of executives in the legal-marijuana industry, compared to about 22 percent of senior managers in other industries”.
One of the reasons that the weed industry appeals to women is that it is part of the growing gig/freelancing/entrepreneurial economy which has a lot of benefits for women. Or I guess to be more realistic about it, sucks differently from working for someone else.
As a freelancer, you don’t get benefits, you aren’t protected from liability, you pay for your own office space and supplies and stuff like that. BUT! Women who freelance make more on average than women who work for someone else. They also have more flexible hours which is super handy for women who care for people that may need them during work hours, i.e., children, elderly relatives, anyone else who occupies a fallible human body, etc. Freelancing is also an option for women with physical and/or medical conditions that make being available for someone else on a regular basis difficult.
People talk about the gig economy as if it’s new, but as a jaded historian who also went to a lot of church growing up, I know that
For instance, medieval women were queens of the gig economy, even though they didn’t call it that because they didn’t have words for “gig” or “economy”. Women often contributed to their family’s finances by ramping up the domestic duties they already performed. Take beer, for example. People in England drank a lot of beer and it was wives/mothers who brewed it because it was their job to feed their families. If a woman, let’s call her Mary, had surplus time, supplies, and a particular talent and liking for the brewing process, she make more beer than her family could drink. Mary would then sell her surplus or trade it with her neighbor, Anne, who hated brewing beer but loved the meditative rhythm of churning butter, which she traded for beer. Women did this with all kinds of things like cheese, bread, yarn, cloth and sex, sometimes dabbling in prostitution to help her family pay the bills.
Women engaged in this kind of work in part because they could fit it around having and raising babies. You can tend to the beer when your baby is napping. Overwhelmed with a newborn? Ramp down your production of yarn until you have time to spin again.
Women ran into trouble when manufacturing became more modernized. For instance, in the 13th century, Germans introduced hops into beer. Hops preserve beer making it possible to brew and store larger amounts of it at a time. Brewing beer became a large production, requiring large financial outlay and brewing systems that could no longer be contained in a home. Generally, women had neither the time nor the financial outlay to transition to large-scale brewing and got squeezed out of the market. Beer became a man’s game.
Weed not so much. Women are going on the offensive to keep from being pushed out of the marijuana game. For instance, Jane West founded Women Grow, an organization that provides professional guidance in a new and risky field (weed is still illegal at the federal level, making its legalization at the state level tenuous). Women in weed are hoping to define a new type of business culture that does not valorize working long hours and vicious competition as some industries do. They also hope to cater to female customers with soaps, menstrual relief products, designer vaporizers, and cannabis clutches for holding your goods.
In addition to asserting themselves into a burgeoning industry, Weed Women are also preserving something our medieval foremothers knew about but we’ve forgotten: time for ourselves. In the middle ages, church courts strictly enforced the leisure time Christians believed was mandated by God. Back then, you could be fined for working on Sundays and holy days with the result that you were legally required to take off at least two months a year. Today’s Weed Women are recouping some of the time that industrialization took from us. Bravely taking time for their families rather than trying to win intangible prizes for working the most, weed women sell you a break and partake themselves. Weed Women have choked on the harsh shake of the patriarchal American workplace and invite us to reach higher. Their chronic might be just the cure we need.
*Mom, dad, potential employers: I do not smoke weed, I am only implying I do for humor’s sake. This is a literary technique I invented called “a hilarious joke”.
+I’m serious when I say I do not smoke weed.