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Calgary’s Women Who Weed shifting perception of marijuana use

There’s a stigma attached to women and marijuana say those in the biz, but legalization has sparked a change.

A Calgary group dedicated to pot and the ladies is empowering budding female users to help turn that tide.

“I work in the cannabis industry, so it’s pretty obvious that I am a fan, but most people assume I don’t really smoke, or that I don’t know much about weed,” said Jessica McCann, a western sales representative at 48North. 

“This happens all the time in my professional life. When I’m selling to clients, it takes a lot longer to build trust as a woman,” she said.

“Men seem leery of my opinions and knowledge, and don’t take me as seriously.”

According to McCann, women have what’s called a “performance tax” and it’s no different in the cannabis industry.

“This means that I need to know more and be more educated than my male counterparts, to be seen as the same level,” said McCann

Jessica McCann talks about the need for a safe space for women to openly talk and educate each other about cannabis. SPARDHA MEHTA / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

McCann is also the chapter leader of Women Who Weed in Calgary. 

The Women Who Weed community was initially founded by Ottawa’s Reagan Bradley and Sara Knowles. It was created to provide women a safe space where they could educate, connect and empower women across the country about cannabis. 

“I saw an opportunity for women to enter a space and to make their mark. I knew it would be easier to build something new than to try and penetrate other organizations that had a long history of male leadership,” said McCann.

McCann wants people to see that cannabis use is meant to be celebrated You can be successful and stoned.

“I want moms to be able to smoke a joint at the end of a day. I want no one to be in jail for cannabis use or possession, and I want people to be celebrated for their cannabis use,” she said.

Parenting and pot

For Leah Mikucki, a cannabis enthusiast and mother of three, the journey with cannabis has been an eyeopener. 

“It can bring out some very strong feelings from people you wouldn’t expect,” she said.

“Where cannabis reaches such a diverse group of people, yet because of its propensity to heal, most people come to the cannabis community with an unbelievable true story and a big open heart.”

It’s outside her social circles that Mikucki feels the shade, the lack of understanding and the reluctance to listen.

“As a mother, this is amplified as you are sometimes expected to mold into an entirely different person when you have a child,” she said.

Mikucki believes that women are as much a part of cannabis as men, and thus should have representation, too.

“I know that Women Who Weed is an initiative we need desperately,” she said.

She became a medicinal user after experiencing a traumatic surrogate pregnancy loss and developed PTSD(Post-traumatic stress disorder).

“It’s been life changing. I’m able to be the best version of myself. I can give more of my vibrant self to my children, to my partner, my family, friends and community,” said Mikucki.

Crushing the stigma

There still exists misconceptions about the effects of cannabis and the image of cannabis users. Despite legalization of recreational and medical marijuana use, the ‘illegal’ feeling remains prevalent among some.  

“Cannabis often lives in a grey area that is often difficult to understand,” said Lindsey Allan, a 30-year-old marketing and brand specialist in Calgary. 

She feels that there is a bigger societal stigma around the image people associate with the word ‘stoner’.

“A stoner has been represented in the media (up until recently) as someone who is lazy or unmotivated; but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” she said.

“Stoners can be mothers, fathers, grandparents, young professionals, entrepreneurs, struggling with mental health or treating chronic illness, and that’s just to name a few.”

Allan’s journey has been a private one, up until recently. She uses cannabis medicinally as well. 

“There shouldn’t be any shame around lighting up than there is to take an Advil or another type of pain reliever,” she said.

Wanting to see a change, she wants healthcare providers to start covering medical marijuana prescriptions.

“We should all be able to have access to affordable medication. Even if we choose to use an alternative to the traditional pharmaceutical,” said Allan.

McCann said there are several treatments she uses to manage her mental health – prescription medication, a strong support system, energy healing, exercise and of course, cannabis. 

“People always assume that pro-cannabis means anti-prescriptions, but I try and make it clear that using both is what helps me. There is nothing wrong with using one or the other, or both,” she said.

“Wellness is about doing what you need to do for yourself.”

Cannabis has become a part of her identity; McCann loves it when people refer to her as ‘the weed girl’. 

Safe space rebranding

On July 7, 2020, the founders of the Women Who Weed community planned to shut their doors because the COVID-19 restrictions led to a rundown of their business model.

Despite the closure, McCann believes that women in Calgary need a safe space more than ever. She decided to keep running the group but rebrand and rename it. 

The opportunity to connect with others in the cannabis community can sometimes be more challenging for women. Especially if they don’t have other friends who are cannabis users.

“I wanted us to have a safe space to meet like-minded friends. This meant I had to completely rebrand and rename this group,” said McCann.

For McCann, the group isn’t just for her, rather its for every type of women.

“It’s fun to share our experiences, challenges, favorite strains and passions for weed in a space that is safe, inclusive and open to anyone who identifies as a woman,” said Allan, who is also a member of this community. 

“Smoking weed does not diminish my personal, or professional accomplishments. I am still an award-winning marketer, a manager, a creative problem solver, strategic thinker and a goal-oriented woman,” she said.

“I’m also just a woman who smokes weed.”

McCann emphasized how owning that wellness is your number one priority. Realizing that there are different ways to take care of yourself is very empowering. 

“Times are changing and we are starting to see a change in what the success prototype looks like. Cannabis users are creative and motivated. Women are leaders and experts,” she said.

“The shift is happening, and I am here for it.”