Everyone self-medicates somehow. Some cannabis users compare it to a generally accepted practice of a glass of wine at the end of the day. But an evening hit is more frowned upon than a class of alcohol, and female cannabis consumers suffer additional gender-based stereotypes.
Women are more likely than men to hide in the green closet, because of stereotypes and stigma, despite the fact that the consumption ratio does not vary greatly. For some women, social stigma, not legality, is what’s keeping them from using the plant altogether.
These claims can be observed in a North American survey by Van der Pop. The survey was conducted in 2017 called Women&Weed. 70% of the 1534 surveyed women believe cannabis carries a negative stigma, with 66% of the women hiding their use. Women typically fear that their intelligence, professionalism, or seriousness will be questioned. But for some women the most overwhelming fear is to be considered a bad parent, because of their cannabis consumption.
Men on the other hand, typically do not suffer from the bad-stoner-parent stereotype, and their fears around consumption are usually centred on legality. This may be linked to the fact that for decades in pop culture, men were depicted as the cannabis users, and it was usually made light of.
In the USA many women working in the cannabis industry fear child protective services taking their children away. This is a reality for some mothers in the land of the free, despite not smoking in front of their children. For the most part, women tend to use weed responsibly and for specific reasons. The data shows women most often use weed for pain, relaxation, stress, and anxiety, far more than for social experience or creativity.
Even in the cannabis industry, one which is considered progressive, women suffer from gender-biases. Ladies in canna-business are often taken less seriously and considered less knowledgeable and misleading in their advice. Despite more women CEOs in the canna-industry than in any other, it is still a male driven industry where women are often challenged.
Lily Salazar, a member of the Los Angeles cannabis industry, admitted that customers often go to one of her male co-worker to make to validate her advice. Customers often believe that the female budtenders are only hired because of their physical appearance. A statement based on the fact that most dispensaries highlight physical appearance when hiring, because sex sells. However, the sex they are selling mainly cater to men, despite the fact that more women smoke weed than men in North America.
The relationship between cannabis and women’s sexual health are also gravely underrepresented. Dr Becky Lynn, a gynaecologist who specialises in sexual medicine, found a great deal of literature in the public internet sphere on cannabis and libido after several women confided in her about using it to increase their sexual drive.
However, Dr Lynn found very little scientific studies, which led her to conduct her own study which was produced in March 2019. This study is one of the largest studies to show hw cannabis is used by women to improve sex. 127 out of 400 women who answered positive to using the plant before sex reported better sex drives and more than twice the odds of satisfactory orgasm.
Previous North American surveys in the 70’s and 80’s show more women than men reported increased sexual desire with cannabis consumption. In the 80’s survey three out of four women who regularly used marijuana reported increased sexual pleasure and satisfaction, two of three reported a greater sense of intimacy, and one out of the three reported better orgasm.
However, increased potential for sexual satisfaction are not always a reality for men. Luckily though, medication for erectile dysfunction exists, but women do not have the same options. The proven medication that do exist for female libido tend to be extremely expensive, or come with problem like having to take it daily and avoiding alcohol to reach “half of the additional sexual satisfaction”.
At the moment in most countries clinical trials of THC on humans are very limited, but studies on rodents have proven to be very effective. These studies prove that THC not only increases female arousal but orgasm too. Dr Jim Pfaus, a neuroscientist specializing in the biology of female sexual response says with the use of THC women who have orgasm disorders may not have to suffer from it anymore.
But even in the US where medical use is legal, disorders of female sexual function are not on the approved list of indications. Furthermore, the lack of studies to prove safety and efficacy is what’s keeping doctor like Lynn from professionally recommending it as it can endanger her license to practice medicine.
As South Africa is moving closer to the legalisation of dagga, it is important to be educated on these gender-biases to prevent similar issues. We should draw on the experiences of other countries to ensure a smoother transition and to allow clinical trials to provide effective medication.
Our individual ideas, behaviours and conversations on these issues can make for a larger impact. So, with International Women’s Day coming up this week calling for gender equality, let’s bring our attention to the stigmas and stereotypes of women in the dagga community.
Let no woman sit in the dagga closet, shamefully blowing her cloud into a towel.