The reason for the topic, Wilson-Briggs said, is that the movement is at an historic moment. She gave an overview of previous women’s movements, starting with the suffragettes who rallied for the right of women to vote, which in some respects followed on the earlier anti-slavery movement that really brought women into public life as advocates for an end to slavery.
The suffrage movement evolved into the push to outlaw alcohol and succeeded in passing the 19th Amendment in 1920, an amendment repealed a little more than a decade later. California ratified the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. The cannabis prohibition has lasted a lot longer than that, but things are changing.
World War II brought further changes for the role of women as they entered the factories making weapons for the war effort and took over jobs formerly held by men who had left them for military service. When the men returned, not all women were content to return to their traditional role. Factory work brought white women into the labor movement, where they became shop stewards and union officers.
But, Miller noted, “The right to work outside the home was not an issue for black women. They were already working.”
Wilson-Briggs said that she saw the issue of same sex marriage as a transformative issue. In the traditional world of male/female marriage, the rule has been that the husband’s name goes first on items like property deeds or bank accounts. Until the 1970s, a married woman couldn’t have a bank account in her own name without her husband’s permission.
With same-sex unions, Wilson-Briggs said, the dialogue about whose name goes first on such documents can’t be based on gender anymore.
Bringing the discussion back to cannabis and the cannabis industry, Wilson-Briggs asked for feedback on the use of scantily clad young women to advertise marijuana in some magazines. Opinions varied. Some saw it as objectification of women. Wilson-Briggs drew a distinction between the model and who was benefiting from the advertising. Some called it a cheap shot, the easy thing to do and noted that everything today is sold with sex. Some thought it appropriate in magazines directed at men.
Someone else noted that cannabis is a female plant and that representations of female energy are very appropriate to it.
The discussion about using sexuality to sell products evolved into a discussion about sexual and physical abuse of young women in the cannabis industry. It’s not a subject that comes up often outside of the odd police report, but there was acknowledgement that the abuse goes on. These incidents don’t generally get made public and some feel they aren’t reported for fear of “hurting the movement” or causing the loss of a crop.
Miller noted the incongruity of a “movement that seems so progressive and then you put these old behaviors and abuses in it.”
The growing community is seen as predominantly male, and males dominate in the very large growing operations. But someone brought up that there are lots of women living with men who grow under the radar. When domestic abuse occurs in this situation, the woman is unlikely to seek help or call the police because it could lead to the loss of the crop and the destruction of the family. The family would face seizure of any money in the house and their children might be taken away.
”It’s the criminalization that creates the problem,” Miller said. As long as growing marijuana is criminal behavior, only community pressure can protect people from being abused, she said. Communities need to demonstrate that they will not tolerate sexual or physical abuse.
As fear of what might happen if people weren’t kept “under control” was behind Jim Crow laws, Miller and Wilson-Briggs said that fear is what is behind the effort to control marijuana. But both women see change coming.
Both Miller and Wilson-Briggs drew parallels between the same-sex marriage movement and the medical marijuana movements. More than a dozen states now allow same-sex marriage and 16 states now have medical marijuana laws.
”When enough states disagree with a law,” Miller said, “the Supreme Court pays attention.”
Both women believe that as more and more states pass medical marijuana laws, the better the chances are of medical marijuana becoming accepted at the federal level.
The two also talked about the difference between legalization and decriminalization. Legalization would remove marijuana from the banned list and make it legal to grow, use or posses it. Decriminalization would treat it as a health issue and an administrative issue.
Most of those present favored outright legalization.
”I’m tired of being told something I know is not true,” one participant said.
There was some concern that legalization might lead to corporate control of medical marijuana. Monsanto is thought to be ready to patent a product.
Near the end of the program, a participant observed that the 707 Cannabis College has an important place in the community “because we can come here to discuss these kind of issues freely.”
Kyndra Miller and Alexis Wilson-Briggs will be back in March for another workshop - “Mother Cannabis,” where the topic will be cannabis, sexuality and health.