The Women of Cannabis, Yesterday and Today
There’s no telling the history of cannabis, both present and past, without invoking the women who shaped its future. From mythological women who inspired cannabis culture, to larger-than-life historical figures, to the women leading the modern day cannabis market, we celebrate the women who are moving cannabis forward, this Women’s History Month and every day.
5 women who made cannabis history
Women’s involvement in cannabis is as old as the plant itself. These five figures from recent and not-so-recent history each solidified that cannabis plays, and has always played, a role in our everyday lives.
- Margaret Mead
The legendary cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead advocated for cannabis legalization in front of the U.S. Senate1 in 1969, well before the legalization movement was considered mainstream or even acceptable. Mead famously testified:
“It is my considered opinion at present that marihuana is not harmful unless it is taken in enormous and excessive amounts. I believe that we are damaging this country, damaging our law, our whole law enforcement situation, damaging the trust between the older people and younger people by its prohibition …”
Shortly after her testimony, Mead told Newsweek she had personally consumed cannabis on at least one occasion. Despite her then-controversial public stance on cannabis legalization, Mead remained a respected scholar until her death in 1978, at which time she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- “Brownie” Mary Jane Rathbun
Well known for her advocacy on behalf of HIV/AIDS patients in San Francisco alongside Dennis Peron and the San Francisco Buyer’s Club2, “Brownie Mary” Jane Rathbun was famous for baking cannabis-infused brownies and handing them out to patients searching for relief from their symptoms. In addition to patients managing symptoms associated with HIV/AIDS, Brownie
Mary also supplied her homemade baked goods to patients undergoing chemotherapy who often experienced nausea and pain.
In 1992, Brownie Mary helped to establish the first medical cannabis dispensary in the U.S., four years before the State of California legalized medicinal marijuana. Rathbun’s advocacy and lobbying efforts are considered instrumental in persuading California lawmakers to ultimately place Proposition P on the ballot and establish a regulatory framework through the Compassionate Use Care Act of 1996, which kicked off the state-by-state successes of the cannabis legalization movement that continues today.
- Queen Victoria
Well before medicinal cannabis was the norm in the western world, Queen Victoria of England consumed it to ease nausea and menstrual cramps3. At the time, her doctor Sir J. Russell Reynolds, who was greatly influenced by the cannabis physician doctor Sir William O’Shaugnessy, remarked that “when pure and administered carefully, [cannabis] is one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” Although medicinal cannabis fell out of fashion in Queen Victoria’s day in favor of intravenous medications, it has returned less than two centuries later with the backing of the scientific community.
- Seshat, Egyptian Goddess
The Egyptian goddess of wisdom and knowledge, Seshat, is thought to have a connection to the cannabis plant based on Egyptian cultural practices and symbolism in mythological hieroglyphs. The first clue comes from Seshat’s distinctive cannabis headdress, which appears to depict the iconic leaf of the cannabis plant atop a lengthy stem extending from the crown of Seshat’s head.
Moreover, what is known about Egyptian consumption of cannabis at the time suggests the goddess may reflect this cultural norm. Cannabis was referenced in several ancient Egyptian medical texts4 as a therapeutic herb, including Ramesseum III Papyrus (1700 B.C.E.), Eber’s Papyrus (1600 B.C.E.), the Berlin Papyrus (1300 B.C.E.), and the Chester Beatty VI Papyrus (1300 B.C.E.).
Scheherazade is a major figure in Middle Eastern literature who was known for consuming hash. The heroine in A Thousand and One Nights, Scheherazade thwarts a mad king’s plan to execute her by regaling him with thrilling tales night after night, refusing to finish the story so he would stay her execution. At the end of the thousandth night, Scheherazade admits she is out of stories to tell, but by then the king had fallen in love with her, sparing her life and making her queen.
The connection between Scheherazade and cannabis is so well known that a cultivar is named after her5. The indica-dominant cross between Afghani and East Asian Sativa is celebrated for its long-lasting effects, sweet flavors, and spicy notes.
Supporting women-led cannabis brands today
The legacy of these five historic figures – and the many others who have elevated the role of cannabis over millennia – paved the way for thousands of women to make their impact in today’s legal medical and adult-use cannabis markets. Women-owned, women-led, and women-run brands are making waves, with award-winning products that are beloved by consumers across the U.S. Here’s a look at just some of the brands you could find at an Ethos location near you — just ask an associate to help you find the one you’re looking for!
- Wana: Founded by CEO Nancy Whiteman, who Inc.com crowned The Queen of Legal Weed6, you can find Wana brand cannabis products in our Massachusetts and Maryland locations.
- Trulieve: Led by CEO Kim Rivers, Florida-based Trulieve’s cannabis products can be found at Ethos locations throughout Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
- Garcia Hand-Picked: A family business founded by Jerry Garcia’s daughters Trixie, Annabelle, and Sunshine, Garcia Hand-Picked focuses on curating top-shelf cannabis products. Garcia’s Hand Picked products can be found at Ethos locations throughout Massachusetts and Maryland.
- Doctor Solomon’s: The famous cannabis brand founded by sisters Laura and Rebecca is named after their mom who was a doctor that believed in the medical potential of cannabis. Their products can be found in Ethos locations in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
- FarmaceuticalRx: FarmaceuticalRx was founded by CEO Rebecca Myers. The company is dedicated to the medical cannabis space, driving scientific research and innovation to create optimal growing environments based on each strains genetic profile and needs.
- gLeaf: gLeaf’s corporate staff includes cannabis advocate J’Lyn Furby, who founded the G420 Global Healing Summit and successfully advocated for a veterans’ equity component in Georgia’s HB 324, as well as Dr. Marla McIntosh, PD.D, who is focused on plant breeding and agronomy. Their products are available in Pennsylvania and Maryland Ethos locations.
Women in cannabis: The future is bright
If history gives us any indication, it’s that women have an impressive future in the modern-day cannabis industry. Today, women get to be a part of a generation that’s shaping an entirely new industry from the inside out. Whether that’s creating the next great brand, fighting for continued legalization across the U.S., or being an active part of a thriving cannabis culture, women continue to take charge in cannabis as influencers, thought leaders, and game-changers.
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