Addressing the Sexualization of Women in the Cannabis Space

The Cannabis Industry Says #MeToo

By:Ashley Priest

August 10 , 2018 

Sex sells. This has been the belief of many marketing departments spanning across various different industries over the years. The belief has been that you should put a skinny, big breasted woman holding your product in a commercial or ad if you wanted your product to sell.  It was thought that sexy women would sell more products than if a male of the same age was used.

When it comes to cannabis, however, it doesn’t need to be sexualized because it sells itself. Not only does cannabis sell itself it's sexy as fuck all on its own! Intelligent, confident, diverse, natural, healing, these are all traits that many people find to be very sexy. All of which are traits offered by cannabis.

Unfortunately, the sexualization of cannabis is still a significant issue. Not only is it an issue for those looking to destigmatize this plant, but it's also an issue for those working in the sector. At a time when our world has been plagued by sexual harassment accusations throughout significant areas such as the entertainment industry and politics, it's time to nip this problem in the “bud” once and for all when it comes to the cannabis sector.

A Growing Epidemic

There are many reasons why this issue needs to be addressed promptly as well as why now’s the perfect time to do so. The issue isn’t just about utilizing a woman's sex appeal to sell products. In fact, the problem is a much larger one. It’s a moral issue, a human rights issue, and a social injustice issue.

I invite you to visit almost any industry event to see firsthand exactly what I’m talking about. At every cannabis expo or conference that I’ve attended, there’s been at least one booth where there are beautiful, half-dressed women, wearing clothing that leaves little to the imagination in an attempt for companies to sell their products or services.

This isn’t the only behavior that is contributing to the issue of sexualization of woman in the cannabis space. I’ve received reports from several women that have witnessed or been subjected to sexual harassment or other forms of power abuse in the cannabis industry. Below are a few.

A Hostile Work Environment for Female Trimmers

One of the main complaints was regarding women trimmers being asked or required to work in minimal or no clothing out of fear they may steal product. I received this specific report from at least 5 different women. This is discriminatory and creates a Hostile Work Environment, something that is highly punishable under workplace harassment policies throughout other sectors.


Power Abuse at Its Worst Despite Legal Agreements

Another report came from Tiffany Bowden regarding a business deal in which she was highly invested in. She was cut out of this deal due to her unwillingness to engage in a relationship with the other party. This happens to many women all too often.

"I myself was cut out of a dispensary deal because the person involved was disappointed that I didn’t want to have a relationship with them. Then they tried to make it an issue about my incompetence or not following something in our agreement. They were unsuccessful in their attempts and are still working with my investors today, so obviously, they like what I had offered, and it has supported their needs thus far. They want a relationship, and I do not. The only legal action I can take at this point is to take them to court and sue for a breach of contract which will become quite expensive for me. My situation happened even with agreements in place. I’m debating litigation understanding that it would cost at least $50k to do so. A $5k retainer is required just to start the process. This is the barrier to entry for justice and why this stuff is perpetuated.”

This means that Tiffany can either call it a loss and forget about the hard-earned money that she has invested in the partnership or spend more money and pursue legal action against the other party. As she stated, "these issues and other power abuse issues have started a new movement," one in which Tiffany plans to be highly involved with.

It's the Norm, So They Just Overlook It

Several women I spoke with stated they’ve experienced sexual harassment so many times within the cannabis space that it had become the norm. It occurred so often that they had not only come to expect it but were used to it, and just overlooked it.

THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE! There’s no reason why a woman or anyone for that matter should become used to any type of abuse.  It must not be overlooked and most certainly should never be allowed to become the norm.

According to statistics from New Frontier Data, 30% of survey participants have witnessed sexual harassment in the cannabis space. 14% have personally experienced sexual harassment while employed in the cannabis industry. 49% of individuals know someone in the cannabis sector that has personally experienced sexual harassment. These are very concerning numbers for a burgeoning new industry and for women everywhere.

When it Comes to Sexual Harassment and Power Abuse More isn’t Merrier

I also received reports from women who prefer to remain anonymous. These reports were regarding employers who instructed them to wear questionable attire on business trips. Some employers denied women promotions because of their unwillingness to engage in sexual actions with them. There were also reports from women who have co-workers who make unwanted sexual advances to them on a regular basis.

When Patients Become Perpetrators

The issue of sexual harassment in the cannabis space isn't just with employers or co-workers. It's also not only with women. I received reports from women as well as men who have experienced sexual harassment from consumers or patients that have visited a business in the cannabis space in which they are employed at.

To address the issue of how cannabis employees can be best trained to deal with these situations, I reached out to Angie Roullier. Angie is a cannabis patient and the founder/CEO of a Michigan based cannabis consultant business called Balanced Branches. Here’s what Angie had to share.

"One thing I stress within my training is that working in the retail of cannabis does require a thick skin. It is not for the uber sensitive or the easily offended. After all, they are face to face with people in distress all day long, and some come with behavioral conditions. But this does not give free passage for abusive behavior and is why a strong harassment policy must be set."

"A zero-tolerance policy on inappropriate behavior and its repercussions should be on every membership agreement as well as workplace sexual harassment policy. By letting the patients, consumers, and employees know on day one that harassment won't be tolerated, or they will be banned for it, they are more likely to be respectful of these policies."

“Consultants need to be trained that they are in control of the situation and will not tolerate harassment of any kind, from anyone. Consultants must learn very quickly how to let patients, employers, and coworkers know, politely and professionally, when they are getting too close to the “you’re out-of-line” line in the sand."

Nipping Sexual Harassment in the Bud

The present is the most optimal time to address issues concerning this area. It’s a well-known fact that women are often paid much less to perform the same job duties as their male counterparts. It’s also public knowledge that people throughout many different sectors have started to come forth regarding sexual harassment.

A recent movement, known as the #MeToo social media awareness campaign was started. This is a campaign where women from countries around the world can share their stories of how sexual harassment has personally impacted them. These stories have no boundaries and come from women of all walks of life, nationalities, religions, and cultures.

It is quite saddening to see just how many women participate in the #MeToo social media awareness campaign and just how big of a problem sexual harassment is still today. According to the latest reports, women have a significant role in the emerging cannabis sector.  Marijuana Business Daily reported that 27% of executive or leadership roles within businesses in the cannabis niche are held by women.



















Taking A Stand Against Sexual Harassment

We as women are coming together more now than ever before. Not just through social media movements such as the #MeToo campaign, but in general day-to-day life. So how can we address this issue together? This is a great question, and luckily there are many different ways in which we can unite and nip this issue in the bud. Here are a few.

  • Demand enforced sexual harassment policies in cannabis industry businesses. Unfortunately, many companies within the sector don’t have policies in place addressing workplace harassment of any sort. Seeing how there are a large number of women in leadership roles within the industry, it's time that we step up to ensure that these policies are not only put in place but enforced to the fullest extent.

  • Speak up about this issue. Don’t hold back. If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace no matter what industry, don’t let it go unaddressed.

  • If you witness sexual harassment or abuse within the cannabis space or other industry, whether you are personally involved or not, you should speak up. This core issue is a hard one for many to discuss and even harder it seems for the victims of sexual harassment. This is why you must be their voice if you witness this type of behavior.

When We Combine, We Shine

Last but not least, when you see another woman’s tiara sitting crooked on her head, offer her a helping hand. Help her put it back on straight. Maybe even roll her a joint, fix her a dab, or pack her a bowl because you both deserve it!

Sexual harassment in the cannabis sector is real. It happens every day. Chances are that it’s happening somewhere right now. This is a problem that when left unaddressed causes devastation in the workplace and in life.

If you see sexual harassment taking place, take a stand and tell someone. Sexual harassment is a crime, and the police will take a report, and you can press charges. There's always another job, there’s only one you.



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