Since the early aughts, women’s influence in pot culture has since extended far beyond pop culture, as the drug becomes ever the more ubiquitous, experts project that the national market could be work $21 billion by 2020. And women are clamoring to stake their claim.
“Cannabis itself has been around for thousands of years, and humans have been smoking it or consuming it in some form or another as long as there have been humans, but it is—at least in the US—an entirely new industry,” says Verena von Pfetten, co-founder of Gossamer, a “cannabis-adjacent” lifestyle and media brand that launched at the end of last year, with a chic Instagram feed to boot.
“Anyone who wants to (can) be a part of the opportunity to create an industry from the ground up—that is as open-minded and intersectional and diverse as we could possibly create, and that’s a really rare opportunity. There are no other parallels you could draw.”
Gossamer, which Pfetten co-founded with David Weiner, will put out the first issue of its biannual print magazine later this month. “We wanted to create something and build a community that spoke to both men and women, but with the recognition that women are historically and often most intensely underserved and inaccurately represented in this space,” says Pftetten.
In 2015, Newsweek proffered the idea that women could make (the pot business) the “first billion-dollar industry that isn’t dominated by men.” Never before in recent history has this been a possibility.
The only somewhat contemporary parallel to the ballooning of the cannabis industry would be the tech evolution of Silicon Valley, and there’s no sugarcoating how inhospitable to women that experiment has turned out to be.
Men are still participating in the development of the industry, of course, but women are the ones collectively disrupting what a lifestyle that includes cannabis looks like, through the curation of thoughtful, beautiful lifestyle publications and brands.
Simply by being themselves, women are slowly but surely dismantling the default image of a “stoner” as that guy who hotboxes his parents’ basement, glassy-eyed and elbow-deep in a bag of Doritos. This is happening not only through the creation of lifestyle publications—in addition to Gossamer, there is Broccoliand Dope Girls Zine—but through growing operations, accessory sales and dispensaries, as well.
Raven Grass is a Tier 2 cannabis farm located just outside of Olympia, WA. Its founder, Nichole Graf, comes from a background in fashion. She designed accessories and did branding for Madewell while employed by J.Crew in NYC. Raven’s aesthetic lies at the intersection of Graf’s inspiring, Goop-esque style and her passion for wellness, particularly alternative medicine and nutrition.
When she and her two partners, both men, launched their operation in 2012, Colorado and Washington state had just recently voted to end cannabis prohibition (Oregon and Alaska followed suit one year later). The industry had started to emerge from the dark ages of the black market, a period in which both the production and consumption of cannabis was largely defined by men.
“In the beginning, when it was still medical and we first started (Raven Grass), (there was) a lot of carryover from the black market, a lot of boys club mentality,” says Graf. “I would go to bring our product around to dispensaries and they would barely even look me in the eye.
“We would go in a group of three to meet different vendors at different store events, and I literally had someone shake my first business partner’s hand and look him in the eye, shake the other partner’s hand and look him in the eye, and then look at the two of them, gesture to me, and go, ‘Now who are you? Which one are you married to?’”
Five years later, women are putting up with a lot less crap generally, but especially at work. The #MeToo movement is at least partly to thank, and the weed world has not been exempt from this upheaval from within. “I think it is this perfect moment in time, this perfect storm, where we are seeing this push of girls to the front, women forward, in our country at large,” says Graf.
“But this is really the first time in any of our lifetimes that there’s been a brand new industry started from the ground up, and for the very first time, women have been given equal access to that industry.
That’s not a purely true equation—women and minorities still don’t have access to the same leg up in the world that men have when entering into day one of a new industry—however, in theory, we’re greeted with the same open door on the same first floor.”