This is the first of a two-part series looking at the women of color revolutionizing the cannabis industry.
Representation matters, and not just in Hollywood. In the cannabis industry, there’s a new crop of black women on Instagram and beyond who are shamelessly open about their use and support of cannabis. These ladies are putting their foot down so that they can have a seat at the table and be represented in this new frontier of legal weed. Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and recreational weed is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia.
From business owners to cannabis yoga instructors to ganja rappers, these ladies are carving out a space for women of color in the overwhelming white and male-dominated cannabis industry. Just by existing in this space, these ganja queens are tackling the stigmas and breaking down barriers so that the face of the new wave of mainstream legal weed entrepreneurs is changing.
Iyana, creator of Kush and Cute -- @KushandCute
When speaking about where she sees her company, Iyana (who chose not to disclose her last name) says she wants Kush and Cute to be displayed on the shelves of every store nationwide. While her cannabis skincare product company only started in November 2017, she’s been working in the cannabis industry since 2016.
“There are more and more people of color rising to notoriety in the [cannabis] space. But a lot of work needs to be done for it to be considered diverse and inclusive. But we are optimistic that it can be done.”
As someone who had been making do-it-yourself body products for years, it came to her one day to “combine one of my DIY recipes with cannabis, and the results were fantastic.” It wasn’t until the 23-year-old, who grew up in Texas and Southern California, attended a cannabis event in California that she said she noticed a need for more women in the cannabis industry.
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“I was really confused and appalled by the lack of women -- especially black women -- in the industry, because we of course like weed, too!” she told VICE Impact.
However, growing up she wasn’t always interested in cannabis.
“I had this false idea that it would make you dumb or that people who smoked weed did nothing else but smoke weed and that it was a gateway drug -- obviously not,” she said.
Iyana’s also dealt with anxiety her whole life, so the first time she smoked weed, she said it was like a light bulb went off -- all her anxiety went away.
These ladies are carving out a space for women of color in the overwhelming white and male-dominated cannabis industry.
“It was like the weed was a sponge and my anxiety was water, it just dissolved it instantly. I've been a cannabis user and advocate ever since,” she said.
Despite making strides with her own business, she said people of color are still underrepresented in the industry due to unjust laws and punishment.
“A lot of people of color are honestly scared of getting in this industry because of that or they personally know someone that got arrested for weed,” she said, not mincing words: “We're moving targets.”
However, Iyana thinks inclusivity in the cannabis industry can be achieved through education, which she has already started to do in Texas.
“A few months ago, I had a speaking engagement about the benefits of CBD [cannabidiol, one of the many cannabinoids in cannabis] to a group of black estheticians in Texas,” she said. “When I did tell them [about the benefits] they were upset that they didn't know the benefits of CBD sooner. Of course, anyone can research this information, but if no one brings a specific group this information how are they ever going to get it?”
She hopes that more women will help to educate others about the benefits of cannabis -- especially black women. But, for now, she’s focused on what’s next for Kush and Cute.
“We've been sold out of some customer favorites for a while -- CBD bath bombs, high healthy skin beauty oil -- but that will be restocked again very soon and we're working on some more new yummy scents for our wake and bake coffee body scrub for the summer,” she said.
“A lot of people of color are honestly scared of getting in this industry because of that or they personally know someone that got arrested for weed."
Additionally, Kush and Cute will host an event in July, called “Brunch, Shop & Sesh.” It’s described as “a safe space for female cannabis users and non-users to network while learning about the benefits of cannabis.”
Mary Pryor, Tonya Rapley, Charlese Antoinette, Creators of Cannaclusive -- @Cannaclusive
After growing tired of being the only black faces at cannabis events, Mary Pryor, Tonya Rapley and Charlese Antoinette decided to do something about it by creating their own business: Cannaclusive.
“We were surprised to find that it was a largely white male and female dominated space and that we were met with hesitancy, almost stupor as to how we found out about the events,” Pryor, Rapley and Antoinette, told VICE Impact. “Many times, we felt as if they had their token black person and we were making them comfortable by exceeding their quota. This sentiment trickled into advertising and much of the media’s depiction of the growing cannabis industry, and we didn’t feel that it had to be that way.”
They explained that they created Cannaclusive to establish “spaces and things for people like us – educated, driven women of color who enjoy the healing benefits of cannabis.”
It’s why they created a Flickr photo series, featuring hundreds of images of a diverse group of men and women smoking weed, rolling joints, puffing on a vape, and more. The photos can be used by anyone, with the caveat that Cannaclusive’s given the photo credit.
In addition to elevating the voices of people of color, Pryor said that “in every way possible” they want to combat any stigmas about cannabis. They are planning to host several workshops on cannabis education across the country, including, Washington, D.C., New York City, Detroit, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
“There are more and more people of color rising to notoriety in the [cannabis] space,” they said. “But a lot of work needs to be done for it to be considered diverse and inclusive. But we are optimistic that it can be done.”
Do you think weed should or shouldn't be legal? Contact your congressperson above and tell them how you feel about legalizing marijuana.