As Mr Dynamite, aka James Brown used to sing, “This is a man’s world”. In most institutional, artistic and activist spheres, direction is still reserved to men. Even the ones supposed to be the most horizontal and most focused on rights and liberties.
To break up with this reality and rethink this state of affairs comes the Cannabic Women Gathering, an initiative that held its first meeting Thursday March 10 in Barcelona, amidst the Spannabis Fair.
A few weeks ago I had two different conversations with two women. Both conversations revolved around the same subject, the marihuana industry. On one of them I was chatting with a friend and on the other I was interviewing an activist. Both women had in common that they were from North America and had worked for the industry. And both of them expressed at some point that cannabis activism was still a world ruled by men (they said it in a less elegant way that is not appropriate to reproduce here). If this happens in the USA, a country where cannabis has walked most of the path, a country that has legalized the medicinal use and the recreational use in some States, What is happening in Spain?
We don’t know the first thing about cannabis and feminist empowerment.
I realized I had read a lot about this movement in present times and that I myself knew some women that were involved with it. However, if I focused on people who represented cannabis activism, I could count them without using all my fingers.
In the USA, the Land of Opportunity, there was Cheryl Shuman, with a classic Beverly Hills profile, millionaire and true business woman straight out of a reality show. Further North, in Canada, we knew Charlo Green or Jodie Emery. The first had no trouble in quitting her job at a known high rating TV channel with a “fuck it”. The second campaigned for legalization while her partner, Marc Emery, was imprisoned.
Then, just when I was wondering who the Spanish women activists were, what their names were or where they were hiding, I bumped into the “Cannabis women gathering”, something really big just about to happen in Barcelona.
Change will be possible through a gender perspective or it just won’t be
The cannabis movement has a very irregular rhythm. There are constant stops, because of the prohibitionist policies, and accelerations, caused by the world-wide tendency towards regulation. A movement like this needs to gather strength from different sources to move forward. To break up a stereotype and kill a stigma, we need the richness in heterogeneity.
But inside the cannabis world there’s a lot of sexism as well, and to reach that desired change the most important thing is that everybody, men and women, start working to achieve the main goal: get our violet glasses graduated and work for equality. On March 10 the I Cannabic Women Gathering took place, an intense working day where diverse women who share drug policy concerns analyzed the current situation and the shared challenges. A day full of activities and talks to “get to know each other and plot together”. Consider it as “The germination of a seed that has to grow and be built with the partaking of as many women as possible”.
This first meeting peaked on Saturday March 12 in Spannabis with the public presentation of the Web as a social, political and economic initiative. From then on all the previous work will be a reality with a future continuity. Women from our country of all fields are working on the web to claim and push for equality between men and women in the cannabis movement.
Interview with Gemma Lago, coordinator of the Federation of Cannabis Associations of Catalunya
“In the cannabis world, there is sexism, patriarchal structures, micro sexism, glass ceilings and the list goes on”.
Cannabis.es: Why do you decide to organize the Cannabis Women Gathering?
Gemma Lago: There are many reasons that have made possible our first meeting on March 10. We women are a part of Cannabis World, we helped create associations, we are users, we grow, we are jurors, doctors, we investigate, we do work on prevention and so on. But even so, even if we are present and partake, our sector still suffers from the same inequality and inequity that ails society in general. We see how the image of women is used, the few times that they are visible. We notice the lack of recognition of our needs, the hierarchical and patriarchal structures… If you add the fact that this space has lived underground and has been related to psychoactive substances, they have disregarded women as first line participants.
Cannabis.es: What is the context of this meeting?
Gemma Lago: We are here to vindicate our space, our voice. To fight from our corner against inequality and support the gender perspective, a better visualization of the women who represent us.
In this context, women cannabis users took a first step. Just a year ago the first meetings of the Women’s Group of CatFAC took place. They were having first hand experience of the low presence of women in associations, and the lack of data or actions that could help enhance that situation. They decided to group and generate, in a peer climate, shared work and formations.
Other women from diverse spaces felt the call to contribute so that all this was possible also in the whole of Spain, since there were other international experiences that served as good references and we thought that here, in the political moment we live in, could also result in a very powerful net for the defense of a new drug paradigm.
These different women gathered, organized as the motor group of the initiative, and have worked to organize the I First Meeting. From that moment on, protagonists are women and they are going to decide what the priorities and future lines will be.
Cannabis.es: What are your immediate goals??
Gemma Lago: Right now the main goal is that the first meeting be successful in participation and implication. Behind this call there’s REMA (Spanish acronym for Anti Prohibitionist Women State Net), from which we will define and work on our goals. For a start we want to make women more visual, fight the double stigma that we suffer, empower ourselves, create a political pressure net, claim the gender perspective in public policies, analyze our specific needs as women… Surely these are some of the challenges we face.
Right now the steps are meeting in the 10th, know each other, work together, earn that complicity that we’ve already felt throughout this last month of preparation, specifically our goals in the cannabis field and also those as anti prohibitionist women. So Let’s Work!
Cannabis.es: Do you think there is sexism in the cannabis world? Or is it just a matter of men being more visible than women?
Gemma Lago: There is sexism in the cannabis world, as there are patriarchal structures, glass ceilings and so on. The world of cannabis is part of the general world so it can’t escape, sadly, from the cultural habits we have grown up with. For us, to keep doing things this way is an option and not a necessity. We understand that the cannabis world has the chance and the obligation of showing a different way and that means necessarily respecting everybody’s rights.
It’s not sustainable pushing for a superficial transformation; if you want to change things, you have to reconsider the foundations, if you claim human rights, civil rights, all men and women must be there. We women, just for being women, have suffered more repression, prohibition and social stigma and it is everybody’s responsibility to repair this situation. Social transformation is in our hands, but we need to review our structures, guarantee equal chances, eradicate sexist advertising and understand that small steps open great roads. But all this depends on responsibility of all the actors involved.
Cannabis.es: Every time you type women and marijuana (in Spanish) in Google, sex related images come up. Another associated meaning is a sick woman that needs the weed to relieve the pain. Do you think other countries are better than us in terms of visibility?
Gemma Lago: Unfortunately cannabis does not escape wild capitalism strategies of which we all are victims. Women are merely a tool for commercial seduction, with a sexual use, men are just consumers of these products and alpha males. Clearly they win, but not all men are comfortable with this representation of reality. And obviously, we women want our dignity.
Women should not be used. We are human beings, we think, feel, work, and are also consumers. It is puzzling that the cannabis industry does not understand that a large number of their women customers expect much more. And, above all, they expect their political and moral decision to turn into companies with real corporate social responsibility. A defined and well developed responsibility, one that pushes for different advertising, respectful of people and of the planet.
Cannabis.es: Seems like there is a double challenge here, to break the stigma related to marijuana and to overcome the stigma of women taking part in this movement.
Gemma Lago: Yes, And there’s more to come! Cannabis is a political opportunity but it would not be coherent on our side to stop there. We are anti prohibitionist women and the fight goes further. It’s all about contributing to a change of paradigm and it will only be real and possible with a gender perspective.
Get to know the Spanish cannabis women activists and I Gathering organizers
Gemma Lago is the coordinator of Catalonia’s Federation of Cannabis Associations. She is a History graduate with a long experience in institutional relations and electoral observation. Furthermore, she has received formation in politics, development agents, strategies, & cooperation policies and social leadership. Her experience and formation are focused on contributing to build a world where the focal point is the people and their rights and freedoms.
Patricia Amiguet is a cannabis activist, founder of the Pachamama Association and technical worker in the CatFAC.
Anna Obradors is a consultant and director of the We’Canna Consulting, designer in Weedgest, and also a sociologist.
Nuria Calzada is State coordinator in Energy Control, a project part of the Welfare and Development Association, ONG that fights in different fronts to help create a more equalitarian and fair society.
Clara Torrijos is a journalist in Marihuana Television, a channel that offers an audiovisual answer to the media and institutional indifference towards a dignified coverage of cannabis culture in its different aspects.
Mireia Ambrós is a technician in drug prevention and health promotion for teenagers and young adults. For the last 8 years she has been coordinating programs in education, producing prevention materials, forming professionals and writing contents. She is also in charge of maintaining the Drug Channel, elpep.info and laclara.info.
Tré Borrás is doctor and psychiatrist, family therapist, addiction and family mediation expert. Since 1989 to this day she has been director of Drug Dependency Service in the Sant Joan de Reus University Hospital. She is also Director of Reus’ Action against Drugs Plan since 2006. She has been a member of different work and counseling groups for the Health Department of Generalitat de Catalunya and also of the National Drug Plan.
Celia Maestre is a collaborator in different cannabis projects like consumers associations, We’Canna Consulting and Weedgest.