Mary Janes: The Women of Weed

Have you ever met a Puffragette? You may be one without even knowing it.

A new documentary, “Mary Janes: The Women of Weed,” makes the definition of a Puffragette clear: “a woman (or man) who is working for gender parity, social justice and environmental sustainability in the cannabis industry.”

Director Windy Borman says her initial interest in cannabis was piqued by the unusually large number of women holding leadership positions in the industry. In 2015, around the time Borman started filming, 36 percent of cannabis industry executives were female, compared to the national average of 22 percent, according to a study by Marijuana Business Daily. (The same study in 2017 found women held only 27 percent of executive jobs in the cannabis industry.)

Throughout the film, Borman approaches the subject of cannabis with a dose of healthy skepticism, using critical thought, an open mind and honesty about her personal history to inform the lens through which she sees the plant.

In “Mary Janes,” Borman questions her own preconceived notions on cannabis as she interviews over 40 women in 10 states, each time coming to eye-opening revelations on what is commonly perceived about cannabis and what we are beginning to learn on a medical, commercial, environmental and political scale.

Her interviews with the female leaders in business, policy and activism — who she dubs “Puffragettes” — are both engaging and informative. She presents a strong assortment of women who both are experts in cannabis and demonstrate how skillsets from other industries can transfer into the cannabis space. The documentary highlights notable women such as recruiter Shaleen Title, lobbyist Betty Aldworth, public health researcher Dr. Amanda Reiman, dispensary owner Wanda James and extractor Mara Gordon.

The interviews are rich and informative. For example, Sara Batterby of HiFi Farms and Wendy Mosher of New West Genetics walk the viewers through the experience of maintaining medical cannabis and industrial hemp farms, and in the process, discuss sustainable farming practices, the science of hemp growing and how to create familiarity though lifestyle branding.

In another interview, musician Melissa Etheridge discusses her experience using cannabis as medicine when she had cancer and her drive to use her influence to advocate for the plant.

Many of the women featured in the documentary focused on social justice and reforming broken social systems, often calling out of some of their own privilege in regards to race and drug offenses. Of course, it could have been even more impactful had more women of color been represented in the film, especially when it discussed the inequalities and injustices around the War on Drugs, the prison system and discrimination against people of color. Perhaps we’ll see another installment to continue the story.

In the end, Borman poignantly reflects on the journey she’s had filming the documentary, how it’s changed the way she views cannabis and how relevant the subject of cannabis and legalization is to the world today.

Throughout the documentary, the material is approachable and educational for those not knowledgeable about cannabis and it goes a long way toward normalizing those working in cannabis activism, research, business and policy. Plus, the film utilizes great visuals of the plant and sidebar illustrations in order to impart a layman-friendly landscape for viewers.

The fact that the documentary illustrates a microcosm of the larger struggles the world today faces around gender parity, social justice and environmental sustainability are not lost on the director. It begs the question: Can healthy government and business models focused on equality and sustainability in the cannabis sphere become the standard for the world around us?

TELL US, what is your favorite documentary about cannabis?

Originally published in Issue 31 of Cannabis Now.