Refresh Checked Unchecked Menu Search Shopping bag Geolocation Person Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube Info Icon CBC Icon CBC Shape CBD Icon CBD Shape CBG Icon CBG Shape THC Icon THC Shape THCV Icon THCV Shape
Advertise on Leafly

Opinion: It’s Past Time to Stop the Sexualization of Cannabis

May 12, 2018
(BlackbourneA/iStock)
Jessica Ginet works at Shadowbox Farms, one of Oregon’s largest adult-use cannabis cultivators, and grows medical cannabis on her own land. She lives, works, and writes in herbaceous southern Oregon. Jessica seeks to remove stereotypes and reveal a more accurate depiction of who consumes cannabis and why.
Leafly welcomes op-ed contributions from industry and political leaders on a range of topics related to cannabis.


Old-time cigarette ads bring to mind a different time and place, a Mad Men-style era when sexism was on display in everyday life and played a prevalent part in advertising. These gems from Tipalet Cigarettes are a case in point: “Give her your Tipalet and watch her smoke,” one says. Another: “Blow in her face and she’ll follow you anywhere.”

The old adage “sex sells” is alive and well in cannabis marketing.

Such misogynistic advertising might seem straight out of midcentury America, but when you compare it to present-day cannabis marketing efforts, it’s not clear that much has changed. Consider these recent examples put out by Advanced Nutrients:

  • Trade show booths featuring nearly naked women wearing shirts with the tagline “Size Matters”
  • A nonionic surfactant formula called Wet Betty advertised with a barely dressed woman and the phrase “Plant Penetrator”

Need more evidence? Stop by a smoke shop and survey the advertisements for rolling papers, blunt wraps, other accessories. You’re almost certain to find advertising for these products featuring sexualized photos of women.

The old adage “sex sells” is alive and well in cannabis marketing. These ads make it seem that there are only two demographics of cannabis consumer: Stereotypical stoner guys and 20-something women with big boobs, scant clothing, and an appetite to party.

Related

13 Fantastic Women-Owned Dispensaries to Support

The truth is that women play an important role in the industry and are a key customer demographic. A survey by Marijuana Business Daily found that about 25% of all cannabis businesses are founded by women and that women hold 26.9% of executive positions in the cannabis industry. On the consumer side, 7% of women in the US regularly consume cannabis, according to a 2016 Gallup poll, compared to 12% of men.

Any good cannabis company should have plenty of other things to brag about, whether it’s the quality of their product, a unique experience or health benefit, their grower’s pedigree, or the heritage of their strains. By instead falling back on misogynist portrayals of women, these businesses cheapen the entire industry. In the eyes of the mainstream consumer, they reduce thousands of promising products down to a single message focused on sex.

This imagery affirms preconceived notions of cannabis as a party drug.

Movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo have swept other industries, including politics and entertainment, initiating waves of change. Cannabis must make the same evolution. To do this, our industry must move beyond hypersexualized images of women and instead focus on the impact that women have as customers, entrepreneurs, wellness advocates, and industry leaders. It’s high time for integrity and thought in cannabis marketing.

On the political stage, states are continuing to legalize cannabis, and the emerging legal industry is seeking federal validation. Key to federal acceptance is improving the mainstream perception of cannabis, which is hampered by sexualized marketing that brings to mind the underground cannabis market. This imagery affirms preconceived notions of cannabis as a party drug used by those who flout the law.

Related

What Cannabis Strains Do Women Want?

Marketing plays a key role in how the wider public perceives the industry, and cannabis is much more than how it is currently advertised. Let’s promote cannabis products with accurate descriptions of their features and benefits rather than sexualized images of one-dimensional women.

Our industry has the opportunity to be progressive and go beyond clichés by doing away with images of women posing provocatively with bags of bud. Let’s promote cannabis as a plant for the people—the sick, the elderly, the healthy—and a miracle plant that is carefully cultivated, lovingly cured, and appreciatively consumed.

Jessica Ginet's Bio Image

Jessica Ginet

Jessica Ginet works at Shadowbox Farms, Oregon’s largest adult-use cannabis grower, and grows medical cannabis on her own land. She lives, works, and writes in herbaceous southern Oregon. Jessica seeks to remove stereotypes and reveal a more accurate depiction of who consumes cannabis and why.

View Jessica Ginet's articles

  • massman

    Well stated Jessica.

  • jon son

    right the only problem with all this is that 420 nurse, etc, are not sex workers nor are they trapped in the job. they in fact choose to be nearly naked at trade shows as you’ve pointed out, because they want to eat and pay rent, and this is a much easier way to do that than other options. we all agree that the objectification of women is totally screwed up and it would be great if sex didn’t sell, but, it does – though only to certain sets of people. just the way you described cannabis as medicine being a marketing story – it only sells to a certain set of people. the industry will right itself if the data stories are true – if women are leading this industry, and leading the purchases made in legal stores, then the marketing will have to change in order to attract those purchasers. ill flip this for you as well, “cannabis feminist” doesn’t appeal to me at all, it in fact is as unappealing and out of place to me as is the nearly naked 420 nurses. instead of a united community we fragmented for the sake of marketing. shocking. it’s not enough to be a female-owned brand that makes or grows a good product, or, to make your marketing appeal to women first before men but to still reach the male demographic, at least not for most brands. But, those that do – Sunnabis Farms in NorCal for instance – show the power of a female-run business without forcing a male patient to carry a box that says “cannabis feminist” – i know its not “pc” to say i’m not a feminist but my apologies to anyone’s feelings that are hurt by my opinion, but, i judge brands based on quality and customer service. put a quality product in a ziplock and deliver it with a smile and anyone who knows cannabis will come back over and over. take a look at exotic genetics – when mike trades p2p at events, half the time he doesnt even have zip locks, he’s throwing it in whatever you’ve got. and its the best of the exotic, elite growers out there. far better than jungle bros or connected (sorry connected). he’s marketing is simple, its often just him in a pair of large shades or pictures of his plants, and he does better than ok. products and their effects speak to the customer, marketing is part of an initial purchase decision and once the customer goes to another shop which doesn’t have the same brand, they’ll simply but a different brand and hope the effects are equal, until there is a national industry. if you want cannabis tea bc kikoko got you into but they only have mfg’er you’re gonna get the tea and try something new. i won’t even try the kikoko brand because their marketing is strictly to females. you don’t represent my interest, i won’t rep your product. pretty simple.

  • paul helssom

    Not going to happen, and you are far too young to understand why.

    • Bohemia_1918

      Nice patronizing tone, you old dinosaur.

      • Fun Please

        Hypocritcal wench – shocking

        • Bohemia_1918

          You don’t deserve my respect. Have fun never getting laid and blaming women for it though.

          • Fun Please

            Honey, I’m Mr $100 Challenge
            I’m a self made combat veteran
            Everything you are not
            Respect comes from an Equal, and you are far from that, you hypocritcal misandrist
            Take your ignorant Privileged Protected Class status and your hypocrisy to someone that pretends to respect what you say, quota
            Carry on hypocrite misandrist

  • Bohemia_1918

    As a female cannabis lover who also works in the industry, I refuse to patronize businesses that use my gender to sell products. I would implore businesses using sexism to sell products to remember that they are alienating 50% of their potential customers. It’s just like cigarettes. Only men smoked them until there was a campaign to include women. So include us, don’t use us.

    • Fun Please

      You are using the freedom of sexism called the Selective Service Office to go on your misandrist rant.
      Go figure

      • Amelia Hastings

        where on earth did she say anything that was even remotely misandrist? we just want to be included as potential patrons, not used for our sex appeal to sell. that’s not a statement on your gender, unless you want to make it one–and in that case i think that’s really your issue, not ours.

        • Anthony Peters

          If you don’t see it you don’t see it!

  • Fun Please

    FFS another ranting misandrist hypocrite. Shocking.
    Want to stop sexism? Get your ass down to the Selective Service Office, you friggin hypocrite.

  • VenomB

    While I’d love to see “weed culture” stray away from the hyper-sexualised stuff, I think this article focuses on “female issues” that don’t exactly exist more than what the problem itself is. It is not sexist nor misogynistic to use sex to sell. Those old ads, however, most certainly were.

  • Paul

    How about no. Women are pretty to look at

  • Carly

    I resent the idea of some women assuming the role of father, brother, boyfriend, and telling me and other women to put more clothes on, cover up and behave. If I want to dress sexy, to use my body in cannabis advertising, whatever, it is my business and my choice.

    That said, responsible advertising should not allow sexism. The use of sex in advertising is fine by me. Not sexism. Scantily clad women is not synonymous with sexism. That’s such a prudish idea.

    – Carly in Eugene

    • Aristraeus

      Thank you Carly!! 😀 😀

  • les

    People just are not happy unless they have something to bitch about or whine about. I bet you piss and moan about ” cultural appropriation” too, get a damned life!

  • Completely agree with the article. That said, the editors may want to consider a different graphic for said article.

  • kellysk

    The comments prove the underlying thesis….
    Sexism and misogyny is alive and well within cannabis culture (though not surprising being a subset of the broader culture, where it also flourishes). Thanks for a thoughtful article, calling attention to something I had not considered before.

    • Fun Please

      Sexism, misandry, and hypocrisy is alive and well you mean.
      Pure sexist hypocritcal misandry.
      Please make a note of it.

  • Aristraeus

    As a freckled, Ivy League educated, red headed, green eyed, 123lb big-titted woman, I am SO SICK OF WOMEN BITCHING ABOUT “SEXISM”!
    Smoke some nice bud.. Get over yourselves! This “meeeeee too” movement is now infecting my wonderful world of marijuana!
    This plant has saved my life and now because I have a vagina I have to think about women’s rights and the movement?
    All I have ever wanted was to reap the healing benefits of this magical “weed”.
    I have never even thought about how the accessories are marketed. I want my product and that is that. Can we all just get along?

    Jessica, I am curious as to what you think about my *awesome*, GIANT bubbler in the shape of a perfect cock and balls.
    Do you consider this objectifying men as I suck on it?
    -or-
    Do you believe in a double standard?

    All the best and happy smoking,
    Aristraeus in Maine
    #womenfortheendofmetoo

  • Brad Detanna

    You create an odd case against nudity across the sexes. In this utopia of ‘How things should be’ we would not have weird ties and extensions about being nude or seeing a nude person, but we do. The cliche ‘sex sells’ is a poor summary that takes little understanding into the science behind what is being done and why – like it or not – and does not consider the range of sexuality beyond the ‘hey look at me.’ Sure there is a ‘too much’ line out there and I applaud your stance against much of it but as you tear down stereotypes you are creating an entirely new set.

  • Aristraeus

    As a freckled, Ivy League educated, red headed, green eyed, 123lb, large breasted woman, I am SO SICK OF WOMEN COMPLAINING ABOUT “SEXISM”!
    Smoke some nice bud.. Get over yourselves! This “meeeeee too” movement is now infecting my wonderful world of marijuana!
    This plant has saved my life and now because I have a vagina I have to think about women’s rights and the movement?
    All I have ever wanted was to reap the healing benefits of this magical “weed”.
    I have never even thought about how the accessories are marketed. I want my product and that is that. Can we all just get along?

    Jessica, I am curious as to what you think about my *awesome*, GIANT bubbler in the shape of perfect male genitals?
    .
    Do you consider this objectifying men as I suck on it?
    -or-
    Do you believe in a double standard?

    All the best and happy smoking,
    Aristraeus in Maine

    *edited for ‘content issues’

    • horsemannv

      I don’t know about Jessica but the picture of you sucking on a “penis bubbler” says two things to me: 1) “LOOK AT ME!” AND 2) “I MAY BE AVAILABLE”. And yes that is objectifying men. It is also sending the wrong message to anyone of any sex that this cannabis industry is a bit shady or at least of poor taste, no pun intended. People DO buy cannabis for legitimate medical reasons (remember it was legalized first for medical use) and may be turned off or too shy to purchase a package of whatever if there is a naked male or female on the package of cannabis. If you want to suck on a male penis of glass that is your business but those items are usually not sold side by side with recreational or medical cannabis and a good bud tender would not recommend that as your first choice of partaking of the herb.

      • Aristraeus

        Thank you for your comment and YOU FELL FOR IT. I wanted you to: LOOK AT ME!!!!
        Marketing is fun and it works.
        Point No. 1 made.
        I use my medicine in the privacy of my home and my dispensary uses NO ADVERTISING. They are also not “Bud Tenders”. They are college educated individuals. Required by the place I chose.
        You made snap judgements off of me proving yet another point that my fellow women have gone OVERBOARD with the metoo movement.
        Point No. 2 made.
        *My Husband bought me [that] bubbler. At a head shop out of state. (I do not use it, but it caught your attention), My dispensary will NOT sell anything crass or crude like that.*
        Just another reason why I chose them out of the dozens available.

        I guess you and some others missed the whole idea.

        Marketing works for a reason.
        Um… anthropology anyone?

        Girls are out of control with the metoo movement, the obsession that they are being objectified and that it is “their time”.

        And the basics that were never stated in the original article. If you do not like something, change the channel.

        Someone below said it, ” You want equal rights, go down to the Select Service Office.”

        Watch some Jordan Peterson.
        And yes, my own house is in order.

  • horsemannv

    One cannot separate sex from sexism. One leads more often than not to the other. I agree with the author concerning the exploitation of sex, whether male or female (rarely is it depicting male sexism or sex) within the cannabis industry. Let’s elevate ourselves to a higher level and set the bar in advertising. There are plenty of sexual advantages to using cannabis that are conducive to physical interaction of a sexual nature. And that is fine to advertise that fact due to the fact that the cannabis product used by each sex is of a different formulation and sometimes method of use.

  • Paul Sorensen

    It’s Past Time to find a cure for my Type 1 Diabetes. Now THAT, is a destructive influence in my life. On a scale of 1-10, I’d give my problem an 8
    and the author’s a 3. And mine affects men and women equally.

  • Anthony Peters

    So words are her Weapon of choice. When in fact she could actually make new ads. Instead of writing while high! Some points are valid but, actions speak louder than words.

  • 2ND7

    I’m in Nevada dispensaries often and freelance for a bigger West Coast cannabis magazine, which is chalk full of all the major product ads. Respectfully, I’ve honestly never even seen anything like what this article is talking about. I even just flipped page-by-page through our latest issue and can’t find see a single ad, of any kind, using sex to sell anything. There are barely even people in the ads, at all. There is one ad zoomed in on a girl’s face that is vaping, which isn’t sexy (she even has a big fluffy beanie on which covers her forehead). And the only other woman in there is Macy Gray’s cover story, and she’s definitely clothed. The rest are all product ads on backgrounds.

    I don’t say that to imply that I’ve seen every ad, every dispensary, or every marketing endeavor, but…..if it was pervasive (<–keyword to my point) in the cannabis industry, it's safe to say that Vegas would most certainly have it. Using to sex to sell things is kind of our thing.

    All of that being said, the entire premise of the argument — even if true, confuses me. Go stand in any grocery store checkout stand and look at all of the magazines geared towards women. Any product ad geared towards women. Clothing, makeup, you name it. Damned near all of them are "sexy," and it's not men who are buying those products and magazines.

  • Aristraeus

    Remember – sex and marketing is based on ANTHROPOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGY!!
    Chemicals baby! Serotonin and Dopamine!

    Companies work hard to figure out what makes your neurons fire!
    It really is all that simple.

    Hate me, my approach and my comments (they work), but honestly this is not an example of the *human being* behind the keyboard.

    I never work high.
    SERIOUSLY? WHO DOES THAT? YOU COME AT ME ABOUT CLASS?
    I am never without work.
    I have a private practice, but also a lucrative business in marketing.

    Are ALL OF YOU representing the *kind hearted people you are* thanks to your medicine here on the internet? Or is this your true self?

  • Nunya75

    If anyone doubts there is a serious problem with misogyny in the cannabis industry just read the comments. The article is actually pretty moderate and sensible. Women are basically seen as sexual props in the industry. You are not taken seriously regardless of how high you may rise, you either play their game or they will try to push you out.