The cannabis plant is rebuilding its relationship with a group of overlooked admirers: women. Even though the herb is revered for its beautiful and intoxicating female flowers, the plant has been marketed primarily to men for decades. This is odd since cannabis has a history in women’s health that spans centuries. Now, one Harvard Business School grad is hoping to reconnect women with this long-lost key to physical and spiritual health.
A lost history of cannabis and women’s health
Cannabis has been used as a women’s medicine for thousands of years. In fact, according to a 2002 review, texts from as early as 2000 BCE provided the first mentions of cannabis as a gynecological tool. That’s over 4000 years ago!
Hemp seeds were crushed and mixed with beer, saffron, and mint to aid in difficult childbirth and menstruation. Later texts suggest that cannabis fumes and vapors were also used to ease labor pains. Cannabis concoctions were used rectally and vaginally in Egypt to ease contractions and address other women’s health issues.
The plant was used by clinicians for women’s issues clear into the early 20th century before prohibition kicked off in 1937. In the late 1800s, cannabis tincture was even famously prescribed to Queen Victoria to ease her menstrual cramps.
In contemporary times, however, the relationship between women and cannabis has been strained. Mothers now face some of the worst possible criminal punishments for cannabis consumption.
In 2015, a Cleveland mother lost custody over her newborn baby after drinking cannabis tea to ease pain and nausea. Mothers like Celia Behar have been shamed and ridiculed online after coming forward about using cannabis to treat postpartum depression. Other mothers like Shona Banda have been prosecuted for using cannabis oils for relief from life-threatening Crohn’s Disease.
The social shame and possible legal repercussions in certain regions have kept many women in the cannabis closet. This is despite the fact that a recent survey has found no difference in cannabis consumption rates between men and women. In fact, women may actually consume cannabis more often than men.
Further, the support of moms and women voters has been key to both medical and recreational cannabis reform in many states.
Taking back cannabis
Now, business savvy Jessica Assaf of Cannabis Feminist has set out to change the way women think about cannabis. How? By encouraging sharing, conversation, and giving women the tools to teach others about the plant.
Cannabis Feminist launched in early 2017, offering women a digital platform for women to share their cannabis experience with others. While conversations over the internet are certainly valuable, Assaf wanted to take things a step forward.
Recently, Cannabis Feminist has launched The Bake Sale, which provides kits filled with cannabis-infused goods created by women in the industry. The kits feature everything from vaporizer pens and sleep aids to lubes and suppositories for enhanced sexual satisfaction.
Thus far, the community is a hit. Already, the Cannabis Feminist Instagram has grown to over 7,000 followers, most of whom are women hoping to build a connection through the plant.
For Assaf, this connection is natural and rooted in ancient history. Before launching Cannabis Feminist, Assaf was struck by the image that for a cannabis flower to form, multiple female buds need to join together to create a whole.
Many sources believe that women actually were the first to discover cannabis in hunter-gather societies, because women were responsible for discovering the power of plants whereas men were responsible for the game, the meat. That as a visual first got me started on the exploration of cannabis feminism.
I imagined women coming together and discovering cannabis, discovering the health benefits of cannabis themselves. And then you move forward and you learn that cannabis used to be used for many women’s health issues including childbirth pain.
"Cannabis helped me overcome depression (which I had been battling for over a year) by calming me and allowing me find enjoyment in personal hobbies that I had lost interest in. It also helps immensely with my social anxiety. When I use #cannabis in social contexts I'm much more outgoing, relaxed and focused instead of being anxious, nervous and scatterbrained. I am so thankful for cannabis and I hope that we can change the stigma around this magical plant." #cannabiscomingout by #cannabisfeminist @pineappleheadlove
Assaf turned her attention to cannabis after 10 years in the natural beauty industry, which “was selling products for women but is run by men.” She desired a safe and healthy space where women were able to take charge over their well-being and change the masculine paradigms that dominate so many industries. She explains,
I felt like there was need for a space and a digital platform for women to get together and figure out how we can do things differently with cannabis, change the industry, and open up the minds of other women about the benefits of this plant.
Assaf herself credits the plant with helping her get through her undergraduate studies at New York University followed by her rigorous journey through Harvard Business School. However, it wasn’t until after graduating that she realized the plant’s true potential.
When I came to Los Angeles, I saw this entirely new landscape. This entirely new way of doing things where women were coming together and all of these women that I was meeting, we all have a deep spiritual connection, a deep love for the plant. That [love] at the foundation really creates this indescribable connection, community, and energy.
Changing the conversation
There’s no doubt that women are kicking some serious ass in the cannabis industry. A 2015 study found that females hold 36 percent of executive positions in the cannabis space. While still a little sad, this percentage is a significant improvement over the U.S. average, which rests at a measly 22 percent. Still, many women are left in the dark about this healing herb.
We’ve all been self-medicating for so long but there are so many women that have been closed off because of the stigma. I believe that Cannabis Feminist is a platform that helps break down the stigma and carry the industry forward with revolutionary healthy products.
I really think that if you use cannabis right, and I mean right for you because everyone had an individualized way that works for them, but if it’s used correctly and you have the education, you realize that it doesn’t make you high in the sense that you’re not yourself.
In fact, Assaf believes cannabis can be a tool for coming into yourself and learning from within rather than fixating on wellness and beauty remedies that focus on the external appearance of health.
The Bake Sale
Assaf sees Cannabis Feminist as a platform that encourages women to be more open about their cannabis consumption, thereby reducing the fear and heartbreaking stigma that prevents people from engaging with a plant that may benefit them. She explains:
For a lot of women, including myself, it helps me to be the best version of myself and allows me to see situations more clearly and less foggy. All of the ways that it actually helps, people think that it does the opposite.
We’ve just been stuck for so long because no one has come out and talked about the ways you can use [cannabis] throughout the day or the opportunity to microdose or the fact that you don’t have to smoke a blunt to use cannabis. In fact, you don’t have to be high at all while using cannabis.
Through The Bake Sale, Assaf and the Cannabis Feminist team hope to bring cannabis back into the home and daily lives of women. Thus far, The Bake Sale kits are sold in California only. However, Assaf hopes that over time Cannabis Feminist will continue to grow and reach women in areas that need the plant most.
To learn more about Cannabis Feminist visit CannabisFeminist.com.